It’s time to consider a mayor for president

Mike KnaakColumn, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. JosephLeave a Comment

The field of Democrats who want to be president grows every day with about a dozen announced candidates and several more hinting at a run for a chance to challenge Donald Trump.

Lots of attention focuses on the six U.S. Senators who have entered the race. But let’s not forget the mayors running too.

Governors, vice-presidents and senators often find their way to the White House but no mayor has gone directly from City Hall to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

President Grover Cleveland was mayor of Buffalo, but he served as New York governor before heading to Washington. Calvin Coolidge briefly served as mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts.

The last time a sitting mayor was nominated for president by a major party was in 1812. New York City Mayor DeWitt Clinton lost to James Madison.

The six announced senators shouldn’t be measuring the Oval Office for new drapes yet. Sixteen presidents previously served as U.S. Senators but only three moved from the Senate to the White House: Warren Harding, John Kennedy and Barack Obama.

With those odds in mind, let’s focus on this year’s current or former mayors who want to be president.

Peter Buttigieg, 37, is mayor of South Bend, Ind., population 101,000. He is a graduate of Harvard University, a Rhodes Scholar and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He is the first openly gay Democratic candidate to run for president.

Buttigieg argues “you could be a senior senator and have never managed more than a hundred people in your life,” he said. “I not only have more years of government experience than the president of the United States, but I have more years of executive experience than the vice president of the United States and more wartime experience than anybody who arrived in the office since George H.W. Bush.”

Pointing out that you have more government service and military experience than the current occupant is setting the bar pretty low. But he has a point.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77, was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980s when the city’s population was about 40,000. He was re-elected three times. While in office, Sanders balanced the city budget and drew a minor league baseball team to Burlington. Burlington sued the local television cable franchise, winning reduced rates for customers. Sanders led extensive downtown revitalization projects. One of his primary achievements was the improvement of Burlington’s Lake Champlain waterfront.

Not a bad record for a socialist.

A third mayor finally decided not to run but he would have been an impressive candidate. New York City’s three-term mayor Michael Bloomberg, 77, is an actual billionaire with no bankruptcies in his background. He built a real company, not a mom-and-pop licensing scheme. A global financial services, mass media and software company bears his name.

Why a mayor? Because they are executives who manage large enterprises. They actually have to form and execute policy and deliver results. They can’t hide in the crowd of 99 other senators when a policy fails. If the snow doesn’t get plowed or the garbage doesn’t get picked up, a mayor hears about it face-to-face while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Mayors need to choose qualified subordinates, make wise policy choices and deliver results. At minimum, voters expect a competent government, not the three shutdowns managed by Donald Trump. Wise policy developed by ethical, experienced leaders would be a bonus.

Give a mayor a chance for a change.

Author: Mike Knaak

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