Leading the Locality: Icelandic Local Government Leadership Dilemma
In Iceland there is a growing scepticism towards mayors with executive powers (Kristinsson 2014). At the same time there is also a substantial demand of a responsive, community orientated local leader with strong direct access into central government level. In Iceland, mayors are recruited largely through two processes: through hiring following nationwide job postings (manager-mayors) and through political appointment from within the municipal council (political mayors). This paper explores the dilemma these different role expectations create for local leaders and local leadership on the whole and how democratic renewal may both contributes to the creation as well as solving of this dilemma. Firstly, the paper discusses the foundation for growing criticism towards executive mayors and the counteractions that have been undertaken. Secondly it delves into the foundation of local leadership and looks into what local leaders believe is expected or even demanded of them by citizens, central government or local agencies in the context of democratic renewal. The findings suggest that professional management plays a vital role in democratic renewal at the local level. However, manager-mayors are expected by citizens, central government and to some part the media to behave in similar ways as political mayors. This creates a dilemma as they are expected to be neutral professionals and community oriented “political” leaders at the same time. Finally, the strong emphasis on community role and direct access of local politicians into central government makes the Icelandic mayoral system more compatible to more southern typologies than the northern typology it is usually assigned to?
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