The Mayor of the District of Columbia is the head of the executive branch of the government of Washington, D.C. The Mayor has the duty to enforce city laws, and the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Council of the District of Columbia. In addition, the Mayor oversees all city services, public property, police and fire protection, most public agencies, and the public school system within the District of Columbia. The mayor's office oversees an annual city budget of $8.8 billion.
The Executive Office of the Mayor is located in the John A. Wilson Building in downtown Washington, D.C. The Mayor appoints several officers, including the Deputy Mayors for Education and Planning & Economic Development, the City Administrator, the chancellor of the city's public schools, and the department heads of city agencies.
The structure of Washington, D.C.'s city government has changed several times since the City of Washington (a smaller municipality within the District of Columbia) was officially granted a formal government in 1802. From 1802 to 1812, the mayor was appointed by the President of the United States; Washington's first mayor was Robert Brent, appointed in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson.〔() 〕 Between 1812 and 1820, the city's mayors were then selected by a city council. From 1820 to 1871 the mayor was popularly elected.
Originally, four separate municipalities were located within the District of Columbia, and each was governed separately: the City of Washington, Georgetown, Alexandria County (retroceded to the state of Virginia in 1846), and unincorporated territory known as Washington County. With the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871, the District of Columbia was united under a single territorial government, whose chief executive was governor. This office was abolished in 1874, after only two governors (Henry D. Cooke and Alexander Robey Shepherd) and replaced with a three-member board of commissioners appointed by the president. This system existed until 1967, when President Lyndon B. Johnson created the office of mayor-commissioner, to be appointed by the president. This office had only one occupant in its eight years of existence: Walter E. Washington.
In 1973, Congress enacted the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, providing for an elected mayor and 13-member legislative council, with the first elections to take place the following year. Incumbent mayor-commissioner Walter Washington was elected the first home-rule Mayor of the District of Columbia on November 5, 1974.
The city's local government, particularly during the mayoralty of Marion Barry, was criticized for mismanagement and waste. Barry defeated Mayor Washington in the 1978 Democratic Party primary. Barry was then elected mayor, serving three successive four-year terms. During his administration in 1989, ''The Washington Monthly'' magazine claimed that the District had "the worst city government in America". After being imprisoned for six months on misdemeanor drug charges in 1990, Barry did not run for reelection. In 1991, Sharon Pratt Kelly became the first black woman to lead a major U.S. city.
Barry was elected again in 1994 and by the next year the city had become nearly insolvent.〔 In 1995, Congress created the District of Columbia Financial Control Board to oversee all municipal spending and rehabilitate the city government. Mayor Anthony Williams won election in 1998. His administration oversaw a period of greater prosperity, urban renewal, and budget surpluses. The District regained control over its finances in 2001 and the oversight board's operations were suspended.
Williams did not seek reelection in 2006. Councilmember Adrian Fenty defeated Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp in that year's Democratic primary race to succeed Williams as mayor and started his term in 2007. Shortly upon taking office, Fenty won approval from the city council to directly manage and overhaul the city's under-performing public school system. However, Fenty lost a Democratic Party primary to former Council Chair Vincent Gray in August 2010. Mayor Gray won the general election and assumed office in January 2011 with a pledge to bring economic opportunities to more of the city's residents and under-served areas.
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