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Here's why the Dallas mayor has less power than you might think

That means when the mayor wants something done, he or she has to compete to carve out limited funds in the budget or help raise money for private causes using their bully pulpit.

Leppert, for example, was a cheerleader for education causes and started a mayor's intern fellows program and a scholarship program. And in addition to GrowSouth efforts to promote development in southern Dallas, Rawlings brought attention to domestic violence issues, poverty and "high-impact landlords" who owned significant numbers of low-income single-family rental properties.

Such initiatives can focus City Hall's direction and raise public profile of issues. More than any other public official in Dallas, the mayor, Blackmon said, "has the ability to get a news conference together and to get things moving" quickly.

"He or she can get information out faster than anybody just by the pure fact that they're the mayors of Dallas," she said.

But, she said, relationships are still needed to make the vision a reality and receive City Hall's attention and funds. While people often "want the mayor to be the savior on something," she said, "the reality is he's a megaphone, and it takes the rest of the council to work together to solve a problem."

QUICK FACTS | Mayor of Dallas

Current officeholder: Mike Rawlings

Term length: 4 years

Salary: $80,000 (Rawlings is paid $60,000, but the next mayor will get a bump).

Election Day 2019: May 4

Runoff Election Day 2019: June 8

What do you wonder about the upcoming elections for Dallas mayor and City Council?

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