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Davenport Institute Hosts First Mayor in Residence

We are excited to share that on October 16, 2023, we welcomed Mayor Eric Johnson of Dallas, Texas, as our first official Mayor in Residence. This event allowed the mayor to interact with the staff, faculty, Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy students, and our graduate assistants. Mayor Johnson also held five one-on-one sessions with students to allow them to ask more pointed questions about their future and gain insights into what being a mayor is all about. 

He discussed two primary points: the relationship between a mayor and their city manager and the policies he implemented as mayor, which made his reelection in April a sure thing. 

Discussion around the Mayor-City Manager relationship centered on the importance of the mayor casting the vision and the city manager executing it. There can be friction in this relationship if there are competing visions; however, the mayor is ultimately responsible to the city's voters, and directing the city is their responsibility. The city manager’s role is to oversee all aspects of the operating departments within the city office. Whether large or small, a city needs a manager to oversee city departments’ daily operations. 

The second point of discussion centered on Johnson’s agenda as mayor. His focus centered around reducing crime and cutting taxes. On policing, Johnson focused on ensuring the Police Chief had the support needed to fight the rising crime through COVID - and it worked. Dallas is the only top 10 city to see crime fall from 2020-2022. He credits hotspot policing for the success. This strategy highlights past criminal activity in specific city areas and prioritizes increased police presence, not the number of arrests, in those areas. 

Reducing taxes was the other pillar of Johnson’s agenda. Dallas’ residents, with the second highest tax rate in the state behind El Paso, were receptive. The aim of reducing taxes is to keep residents in Dallas who would otherwise move to nearby cities. This helps maintain the city as a place people want to live and improves overall city life. Johnson also mentioned that many California residents are moving to Texas, specifically Dallas, because of the friendly tax and regulatory environment. The focus is on continuing to be a place where people from all over the US would like to live. 

We appreciate Mayor Johnson’s willingness to participate in our Mayor in Residence Program and share his experience and insights with the attendees. The Mayor in Residence program is part of our Local Government in Residence initiative, which aims to provide SPP students the opportunity to connect directly with local government leaders.