About one-third of elected city officials will be new to their role come January 1, 2023, based on 2022 General Election results. The elected positions in Kentucky cities include the mayor and city council or commission members, depending on the city’s form of government.
This year’s election featured nearly 400 mayoral races and all city legislative body positions except the even-numbered districts in Louisville Metro. Mayors, the 26 Louisville council members, and Lexington’s three at-large council members serve four-year terms. All other city council and commission members serve two-year terms.
Once the new year begins, 32% of both mayors and city legislative body members will be new to their jobs. Those figures include 127 new mayors and over 600 new city council or commission members. Compared to the similar election in 2018, turnover is down from 37% for mayors and 34% for city legislative body members.
More than 3,100 candidates ran for a city office this year. That included close to 100 who filed as write-in candidates. About nine of those won their city’s mayoral race while more than 50 will serve as a council member or commissioner.
Three races ended as ties. In the City of Butler, two mayoral candidates received 55 votes apiece. Voters in the cities of Morganfield (413 votes) and Muldraugh (79 votes) forced a tie for the last spot on their city council. In all three instances, a coin toss decided the final winner. The results unseated the current mayor of Butler, and the incumbent candidate in Morganfield survived his second tie vote to remain in office; he previously won the same way in 2012.
Louisville, along with just five other Kentucky cities, elects on a partisan basis. All others in the commonwealth – 98.5% of cities – elect on a nonpartisan basis. That strongly contrasts with the state’s county governments in which voters elect all positions on a partisan basis. Only one partisan city operates under the commission form of government while four operate as a mayor-council city.
Most Kentucky cities (53%) operate under the mayor-council form of government. This form separates executive and legislative authority between the mayor and council members, respectively. These cities can have between six and 12 council members, although only 11% of mayor-council cities elect more than six members.
About four in 10 Kentucky cities (42%) operate under the commission form of government. State law grants all executive, legislative, and administrative authority to the commission, and each commissioner oversees a department or function of the government. All cities operating under the commission form elect a mayor and four commissioners.
Roughly 5% of Kentucky cities have selected the city manager form of government. In this form, the mayor and four commissioners – jointly considered the board of commissioners – retain the legislative and executive authority. However, the board appoints a city manager who handles the city’s administrative functions.
Lexington and Louisville operate as unique forms of government. As an urban county government, Lexington resembles a mayor-council form, but it has 15 council seats – 12 representing districts within the city and 3 elected to serve as at-large council members. Louisville’s consolidated local government provides a similar structure except the metro council consists of 26 members who each represent a district of the county.