The duties and the role of the mayor or other head of an Ontario municipal council are set out in sections 225 and 226.1 of the Ontario Municipal Act, 2001. This includes the role of the head to act as chief executive officer, preside over council meetings and provide leadership to the Council.

It also involves representing the municipality at official functions, upholding and promoting the municipality's purposes, promoting the municipality, and supporting activities that enhance its economic, social and environmental well-being, and that of its residents.

What the Act doesn’t do is to set out specifics as to exactly how these responsibilities are to be performed. The mayor or other head has only one vote at council, and no specific entitlements or powers otherwise in terms of making or implementing council decisions, except those delegated to him or her by the Council.

The importance of the mayor comes, to a large extent, from being elected by general vote of all electors, and the prestige and inherent political and social acceptance of the incumbent as speaking on behalf of the municipality, and of being in a position of perceived political power.

While the mayor can’t make decisions on behalf of council, tell it what to do, or personally make binding orders to staff, unless authorized by the council to do so, it is how the incumbent handles the statutory responsibilities that creates the effectiveness and political reputation of the head. The head is at the centre of most municipal activities and operations, reads the most agendas, attends the greatest number of meetings, and sits as a member of the greatest number of bodies. This, plus the mayor’s own resourceful and creative approach to the position, and his or her assertion and successfulness in achieving a reputation as a responsible and powerful head, are what will most assist him or her in getting the job done.

For the most part, the prestige and authority of the head of a municipal council are as strong as the incumbent makes them.