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The Burgomaster's Family, possibly painted by Gerard Donck c. 1640 'The Burgomaster's Family', Dutch oil on canvas painting, c. 1640, Honolulu Academy of Arts.jpg
The Burgomaster's Family, possibly painted by Gerard Donck c. 1640
Manneken Pis dressed as a burgomaster from the Seven Noble Houses of Brussels. Manneken Pis en costume des Lignages de Bruxelles.jpg
Manneken Pis dressed as a burgomaster from the Seven Noble Houses of Brussels.

Burgomaster (alternatively spelled burgermeister, literally master of the town , master of the borough , master of the fortress , or master of the citizens) is the English form of various terms in or derived from Germanic languages for the chief magistrate or executive of a city or town. The name in English was derived from the Dutch burgemeester. In some cases, Burgomaster was the title of the head of state and head of government of a sovereign (or partially or de facto sovereign) city-state, sometimes combined with other titles, such as Hamburg's First Mayor and President of the Senate). Contemporary titles are commonly translated into English as mayor .


Historical use

Caption of a Burgermeisteramt from 1505 (burgomaster Erhart Huck of Bozen, South Tyrol HS 140 fol 53v BMraitung Erhart Hugkh 1505.jpg
Caption of a Bürgermeisteramt from 1505 (burgomaster Erhart Huck of Bozen, South Tyrol

Contemporary use

By jurisdiction

Arnold von Brauweiler, a German burgomaster, known in German as Burgermeister Bartholomaus Bruyn (I) - Burgomaster Arnold von Brauweiler - WGA03660.jpg
Arnold von Brauweiler, a German burgomaster, known in German as Bürgermeister
Session of the council of the community Oude IJsselstreek, eastern Netherlands: mayor Steven de Vreeze (right) as chairman of the council. 2015-04-02 raadsvergadering oij 08.JPG
Session of the council of the community Oude IJsselstreek, eastern Netherlands: mayor Steven de Vreeze (right) as chairman of the council.

Low countries

In the Netherlands and Belgium, the mayor (Dutch : burgemeester or French : bourgmestre) is an appointed government position, whose main responsibility is chairing the executive and legislative councils of a municipality.

In the Netherlands, mayors chair both the council of mayor and aldermen and the municipal council. They are members of the council of mayor and aldermen (Dutch : college van burgemeester en wethouders, B&W) and have their own portfolios, always including safety and public order. They also have a representative role for the municipal government, both to its civilians and to other authorities on the local, regional and national level.

A large majority of mayors are members of a political party. This can be the majority party in the municipal council, but there are many exceptions on this. However, the mayors are expected to exercise their office in a non-partisan way.

The mayor is appointed by the national government (the Crown) for a renewable six-year term. In the past, mayors for important cities were often chosen after negotiations (behind the screens) between the national parties. This appointment procedure has been criticised because it was seen by some as undemocratic. Especially the party D66 had a direct election of the mayor as one of the main objectives in its platform. In the early 2000s, proposals for change were discussed in the national parliament. However, opponents of the status quo were divided between two alternatives: direct election of the mayor by the people or appointment by the municipal council. A constitutional change to direct election gained a majority in both chambers but failed to pass the final vote in the Senate in March 2005.

In the meantime, although the law remained the same, the practice changed. Nowadays, when a vacancy occurs, a special committee of the municipal council interviews (behind closed doors) candidates, which are pre-selected by the provincial governor (the King's Commissioner). After advice by the committee, the council express its preferences to the Minister of the Interior, who almost always follows this recommendation.

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  1. "Curriculum Vitae Klaus Wowereit". Land Berlin, Der Regierende Bürgermeister, Senatskanzlei. Archived from the original on 30 March 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  2. cf. Article 56 sec. 2 of the "Constitution of the State of Berlin (part 4)". Land Berlin, Der Regierende Bürgermeister, Senatskanzlei. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 2010-04-07.
  3. cf. Article 74 sec. 2 of the "Constitution of the State of Berlin (part 6)". Land Berlin, Der Regierende Bürgermeister, Senatskanzlei. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2010.