Mayors got their cities through the pandemic. Now they’re paying the price.

Woodards — who also previously served as the president of the National League of Cities — said she and other mayors regularly talk about the particular challenges that being a city leader brings. She said she is in group texts with several mayors, who offer each other words of encouragement in tough times and praise for policy wins.

“It’s just such a good support system. And when we get to see each other in person, sometimes it’s not what we talk about, it’s just the look that we can give each other,” she said.

Even so, some said they viewed the historic upheaval of the last three years as an opportunity to push for an agenda that would have seemed unfathomable before the pandemic. In St. Paul, Minnesota, for example, the city’s most recent budget included a novel program to help residents pay off medical debt.

“The level of desperation that people have, I think, is higher than ever,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said in a phone interview. “A lot of that probably does spill out toward the mayors. We try to see that as fresh opportunities to demonstrate how City Hall can be relevant in people’s lives.”

Despite the pandemic and its aftermath, Woodards — and many of her colleagues — say they have no regrets about running for office. In the Mayor’s Club survey, a plurality said they have become more optimistic since taking the job.

And most mayors give high marks for their time in office – rating their experience an average of about 8 out of 10.

Woodards, who is term-limited, said she has enjoyed her time as mayor, and felt that she has been able to improve Tacoma, a city where she has spent nearly her entire life.

Her city piloted a guaranteed income program, and she expanded outreach to young people, including the introduction of a youth council. In addition, her office proudly noted that Outside Magazine named the city as one of the happiest in the country.

And she added that, while she has been able to experience unique things — like attending a state dinner at the White House and meeting the Dalai Lama — it is still the little things that matter most to her.

“The coolest things that I get to do is what I just got to do a few minutes ago: To walk into a room full of high school students and talk to them and have two young African American women say, ‘This is our second year and we just did it again, because we really love seeing you, and we really love you,’” she said. “That is what wakes me up in the morning.”

What do you wish you’d known about the job of mayor prior to taking office?

Mayors across the United States have faced unique challenges during the pandemic, but they have also found support and inspiration from their fellow mayors. Mayor Victoria Woodards, who previously served as the president of the National League of Cities, revealed that she regularly communicates with other mayors through group texts, where they offer encouragement and praise for policy wins. Despite the difficulties of the past three years, some mayors see this as an opportunity to push for agendas that were previously unimaginable. For instance, St. Paul, Minnesota, included a program in its recent budget to help residents pay off medical debt. Mayor Melvin Carter believes that the desperation among people has increased, which presents an opportunity for City Hall to show its relevance in people’s lives. Surprisingly, despite the challenges faced, most mayors have no regrets about running for office and have become more optimistic since taking the job. They rate their experience as mayor an average of 8 out of 10. Mayor Woodards, who is term-limited, is proud of her achievements in Tacoma, including piloting a guaranteed income program, expanding outreach to young people, and being recognized as one of the happiest cities in the country by Outside Magazine. While she has experienced unique opportunities as mayor, she finds the simple acts of connecting with and inspiring young people to be the most fulfilling.

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