If you listen closely to mayors talk about their cities, you'll hear their sentences spiced with the possessive. They talk about "my" streets department and "my" parks as if they personally owned the roads and green spaces.
It's an easy habit to fall into, and one I was guilty of as much as any of them. Being a mayor is unlike any other political job. There's something personal about being mayor that isn't the same for governors or senators or representatives.
I remember a mayor who had served in Congress telling me, "You know, when I was in the House, and there was a tough issue, I could say, 'well, gotta get on a plane.' But when you're mayor, they want you to be there. You can't run away from your problems. It's all retail. And I love that."
I just got back from the annual geek fest of city policy in Washington called the Mayor's Innovation Project (MIP), run by the Center On Wisconsin Strategy and staffed by Madison alder Satya Rhodes-Conway as part of her day job.
MIP is a small group of nerd mayors who love to spend hours talking about things like "place making" and listening to riveting presentations on stuff like a sewage treatment plant that produces virtually all of its own energy. This weekend's MIP conference supplied me with enough "Ideas of the Week" for the next month.
But what I really love about the annual MIP meeting is the chance to catch up with others who practice (or have practiced) the craft of being a mayor. Mayors share the same traits. Practical. Tough. Always feeling a bit misunderstood and under attack. Getting it from all sides. And yet to a person they love the job and their cities more than anything. It's like the old joke: The food here is terrible. And such small portions!