You think it's easy being mayor these days?
Think again. There's more to the job than balancing multimillion-dollar budgets and managing staff.Mayors, whether they like it or not, are also arbitrators, marriage counselors - and yes, even baby sitters.
Murray Mayor Lynn Pett still vividly recalls the hot summer day he stood in the City Hall parking lot safeguarding a sleeping child.
"I've seen your picture in your brochures and in the newspaper, and you look like a nice man," a friendly patron told Pett. "Would you mind watching my child while I run in and pay my utility bill?"
What's a mayor to do? What else?
While the child slept soundly in a cool car, the mayor - accustomed to taking heat - weathered it for 15 minutes until the Murray mom returned.
"A big percent of the job is talking with people and knowing what their concerns are. The more you do it on a one-to-one basis the better off you are," said Pett.
To get "the pulse" of the city, he attends as many community functions as possible. His home telephone number is listed, and about a third of the time he answers the office phone in City Hall.
"They ask to speak to the mayor and they're surprised when I say, `This is the mayor.' They can't believe they are able to dial directly and talk to the top man."
He can't believe some of their requests.
Take for example the man who called Pett to complain that his neighbor had thrown a beer can in his yard.
"I threw it back. So he threw a sack of garbage and I threw it back," the irritated caller told Pett. "What I want to know is: What are you going to do about it?"
Pett has learned when to get involved and when to mind his own business. "That sounds like a neighborhood problem to me," was his reply.
Ditto for the lady who called upset because overgrown limbs from her neighbor's trees were shading her garden. She too wanted to know what Pett was going to do about it.
Other women in distress have sought his aid. One complained that snails from the park were infesting her property.
Creature complaints are also popular with Draper Mayor Charles Hoffman, although they're mainly about horses wandering the streets.
But a group of neighbors squawked when one woman's 25 peacocks were fouling their property. The mayor helped her relocate them.
Grumbles about garbage pickup and snow removal are among the most common Pett receives. "Every time you change a garbage schedule, it's a tough one," he said. When the garbage spills onto the street, people complain. One lady grumbled when the city tried to clean things up. She called Pett to say the street sweeper was making too much noise "and driving mother and me crazy."
Citizens seem to think that mayors can handle any problem - even if it has to do with private contractors.
Hoffman, for example, was telephoned by a woman who'd been unable to use her bathtub for two months because a "fly-by-night" contractor hadn't finished the remodeling job.
"She wanted to know what I was going to do about it," Hoffman said. He said that he couldn't do anything. The call to the Draper mayor came from a Salt Lake resident.
Even the big-city mayors frequently are targets for callers demanding problems be fixed. Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis once was wakened by a phone call at 5 a.m. The man couldn't sleep because a garbage truck was picking up a bin behind his apartment.
"He said, `I want you to hear this,' and he held the phone up to the window," DePaulis said. "Then he came back on and said he would appreciate us taking care of the problem and that he had called because if he couldn't sleep, he wanted to make sure I couldn't sleep, either."
While most mayors welcome citizen input, most refer as many calls as possible to department chiefs who can take care of the problem.
Other matters only the mayor can handle.
Like marriages. After several persuasive calls from the soon-to-be bride, Pett consented to perform the vows of a couple he'd never met. The families and groom arrived in the City Council chambers on schedule.
The bride, however, got cold feet. She refused to enter the room.
"I finally told her, either we perform the marriage or forget it because I have another meeting to attend," he said.
The wedding proceeded without a hitch. And, the marriage is still intact.
(Urban issues writer Jay Evensen contributed to this story.)