Many of the duties and responsibilities of the county mayor are not specifically addressed in the Tennessee Code, but are a function of the fact that the county mayor is expected to provide leadership and direction to the county in most policy areas. This leadership duty of the county mayor is not easily defined. The county mayor should have a better picture of the total government operation than any other county official, and should also have the knowledge, information and leadership ability to steer the county in the direction most beneficial to the county’s future.
The county mayor is required to devote full time to the office of county mayor, except in counties where, by referendum, it has been determined that the work is insufficient to require a full time county mayor. T.C.A. § 5-6-105. However, this requirement does not necessarily mean that the county mayor cannot have another job or manage another business. It does mean that the county mayor should devote a normal working day’s time to the office.
The county mayor is the accounting officer and chief financial officer of the county; he or she is charged with the care and custody of county property (unless the law specifically places the care and custody on another official, such as the chief administrative officer of the highway department for highway equipment). T.C.A. § 5-6-108. While the county mayor is charged with care of county property, the county legislative body has the power to erect, control and dispose of county property (T.C.A. § 5-5-121), and the authority to levy taxes for this purpose. T.C.A. § 5-5-122.
The county mayor appoints members of county boards and committees and appoints department heads unless, as is frequently the case, the law specifically provides otherwise; these appointees are subject to confirmation by the county commission. T.C.A. § 5-6-106(c). Unless there is a conflict of interest or other prohibition, the county mayor is free to appoint a member of the county legislative body in exercising the appointment power, although the appointee should not vote on the confirmation. Op. Tenn. Att’y Gen. U94-004 (January 4, 1994). Approval of an appointee requires a commission majority; if the county commission does not approve an appointment, the county mayor must make another appointment that will also be required to be approved by the county commission. However, the county mayor has no control over the appointment of the internal committees of the county commission unless the county mayor serves as chair of the county commission.
The county mayor is authorized to employ secretarial and clerical assistants needed in the performance of the duties of the office of county mayor. The county mayor shall establish the compensation of any such assistant within the amount appropriated for such purpose by the county legislative body. T.C.A. § 5-6-116.
While leadership is the most important responsibility of the county mayor, leadership alone is not enough to keep county government functioning properly. Smooth operation also requires that each county official perform statutory administrative duties in several different areas.