Who is the mayor? What does he do?

Public opinion in politics almost always deals with what citizens feel about national issues. Whether it be gun control, immigration or the Federal Reserve, the issue weighing on minds always seems to be one that has its heart in Washington, D.C. For a city as small as Nashua, it is difficult to place a blame on the people, as such a strong and active municipal body as that of the Gate City’s is uncommon in a lot of, for example, other cities in New Hampshire. Nashua’s large city government and Board of Alderman, however, feature a noteworthy presence in public opinion and politics along with national news.

The question arises: What is the big deal regarding our local government anyway? If one can barely keep up with what New Hampshire representatives are saying on top of listening to what is being said in the White House, how could anyone have the time to care about this third layer of public office, Nashua’s government?

Before embarking on a complicated survey that would admittedly push people even farther from wanting to learn anything about City Hall, it is more telling to begin by pondering two simple questions: Do you know who the mayor is, and do you know what he does?

Among the less than 50 percent who correctly answered “Jim Donchess” to the first question, every single person claimed that they were not entirely sure what it is that our mayor does, or why Nashua has a mayor. For some, in fact, this is common knowledge, especially given mayor Donchess’s long history with the city of Nashua and the city’s achievements under his leadership. A good deal of the public, however, is not greatly in touch with the importance of a mayor, or what Jim Donchess does for our city.

The mayor of a city can be thought of as the highest in charge at the local government. Along with overseeing all major financial decisions, the mayor is the chief in charge in making decisions for public relations. The mayor is a face for community movements and social endeavors, such as Donchess’s declaration of June 20th world refugee day in Nashua at the Adult Learning Center. The mayor has a vote in public policy matters, the power to hire and fire city staff members, and veto power. The mayor enforces city laws and signs commissions and permits. It is needless to say that the mayor has a good deal of governmental power, working closely with fellow city officials.

Donchess, in particular, is a very community involved mayor. Regularly active on Twitter and Facebook, he makes it easy for locals to know what is going on downtown or what changes have been made worthy of notice in the local government. Donchess served as the mayor of Nashua for eight years (two terms) from 1984 to 1992. Re-elected in 2016, his plan for the city’s future includes carrying out some of his initiatives like the Mayor’s Opioid Task Force, the summer youth internship program, and the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge.

A balance between central and local governments was a challenge faced and defeated by the Founding Fathers, but within the sphere of news and pop culture is a one side weighted see-saw towards Washington, D.C. Far too many people could name President Donald Trump’s legislative actions during the past 12 months without a mistake, but not are unable identify something that Gov. Chris Sununu or Donchess has done for Nashua or New Hampshire since their elections in 2016. While the topic of who is in charge locally may be hot during election time, the energy in local legislative awareness cools off too quickly during a local official’s tenure. With the skyrocketing in national public policy awareness within the last two years, city and state local government awareness holds its importance in the sphere of public opinion nowadays more than ever.

Mahad Kahn is a political science major at the University of New Hampshire. He is a resident of Nashua, and can be reach at mkahn@nashuatelegraph.com.