Salem City Government:

Salem has a mayor and a city council.

The people of Salem adopted a “Plan B” form of government in November 1915. (The Commonwealth had offered six model charters to choose from, A-G.) Plan B is known as the “weak mayor” form. Our Plan B charter created a city government with a mayor and a city council. The city council consists of 11 members, 7 elected from wards and 4 elected at large.

The mayor is elected for a four-year term. The next mayoral election will be in 2021. City councilors are elected for two-year terms. The next election is 2021.

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The mayor is the administrative (executive) head of the city and the city council is the legislative body. The mayor has the right to veto any order, resolution, or ordinance passed by the council. However, the mayor’s veto may be overturned by a two-thirds vote of all councilors (8 of 11).

The mayor appoints their own office staff, the city solicitor, and the assistant city solicitor without city council confirmation. In contrast, city council confirmation is needed for the mayor’s appointment of most city department heads and members of the various boards and committees/commissions.

After reviewing and revising the estimates prepared by department heads, the mayor submits the budget to the city council for final action. The council appropriates all monies necessary to city operation. It can approve, disapprove, or reduce the amount of appropriations, but not add to the appropriation.

Under Massachusetts law, passage or amendment of zoning ordinances require a super-majority of the council, which means a minimum of 8 of the 11 councilors.