The Real Issues

What is the role of Mayor?

The Mayor leads Town Council by setting its agenda, as well as expectations for communication, citizen involvement, and transparency – or lack thereof.  She acts as spokesperson on all official council positions. In addition, the mayor:

  • chairs all council meetings

  • maintains order and decorum, ensuring fair and equitable treatment for all 

  •  signs documents, not requiring the manager’s signature, on behalf of the town

  • calls for special meetings

  • recommends and considers suggestions for proclamations and other recognitions

The Mayor has many informal powers, as well:

  • identifies issues and problems for consideration,

  • promotes awareness of important concerns, and seeks a locality-wide understanding of issues, both among the council and within the community at large.

  • Liaison with the Manager:  helps to link the administrative and legislative bodies, increase the manager’s awareness of council preferences, and predict how council members will react to proposals.

  • Liaison with the Community: helps to improve communication between the public and the municipal government. Team Leader: works to coalesce council, build consensus, and enhance group performance.

  • Goal Setter: establishes goals and objectives for council. Organizer and Stabilizer: guides council to recognition of its roles, responsibilities, and limits and helps define interaction between council and manager.

  • Policy Advocate: develops programs and lines up support for (or opposition to) proposals.

  • Promoter of the Locality: has extensive dealings with citizens; the business and civic community; and local, regional, state, and national elected leaders. 

How is the Mayor elected?

In Blacksburg, the mayor is directly elected by a vote of the town's electorate: The mayor serves a four-year term.    This is not true in other localities, where the mayor may be appointed by his or her council colleagues. Blacksburg’s former mayor, Ron Rordam, was elected mayor in 2006 and ran unopposed twice, serving a total of three terms.  In 2017, Hager-Smith ran against two opponents to win the seat. 

What is the role of Vice Mayor?   

The vice mayor performs the duties of the mayor if the mayor is absent or disabled in any way.  The vice mayor also:
•    chairs meetings at the mayor’s request
•    represents the town at ceremonial functions
•    takes the lead role in making motions on agenda items
•    assists the mayor in making appointments to council advisory committees


How is the Vice Mayor elected?

By being the top vote-getter.   Blacksburg Town Council is a body of seven people, one of whom is elected as mayor.   The other six positions are staggered.   That means every four years, three council positions come open. If a person runs for council and is the top vote-getter, that person becomes vice mayor – until there is another election.  Leslie Hager-Smith has been the top vote-getter every time she’s run:  She has, therefore, served three terms as Vice Mayor and one as Mayor.


What does the manager do?

The manager is directly responsible for the Town of Blacksburg’s day-to-day operations, which are performed by a staff of over 360 people. He provides support to all town departments, to carry out the policies of the town council fairly and equitably. The town manager’s office also acts as the liaison between town government, citizens, community organizations, institutions and neighboring jurisdictions. 


What is the role of Town council?

Town Council is responsible for the legislative function, establishing policy, passing local ordinances and ensuring the implementation of said policies. Members of council are non-partisan representatives of the citizens, elected at large. That means they do not serve as members of any political party, and they represent all town residents and neighborhoods.  

What is the Council-Manager form of government?

The Town of Blacksburg operates under a Council-Manager model of governance. This structure combines the political leadership of elected officials with the professional experience of an appointed local government manager.  The manager, along with the town clerk and town attorney, serve at the pleasure of town council. 

Born out of the US progressive reform movement, the Council-Manager system was designed to combat corruption and unethical activity in local government by promoting effective management within a transparent, responsive, and accountable structure. Since its establishment, the Council-Manager form has become the most popular structure of local government in the US; and, it is widely used throughout other parts of the world, as well.