List of mayors of Washington, D.C.

Below is a list of mayors of Washington, D.C., and associated political entities.

History of offices


The federal district of the United States was first designated by the amended Residence Act of 1790. That Act designated that the President could appoint three commissioners to locate, define and survey an area not exceeding ten miles square as the capital district, following the Constitutional mandate to do so.[1] From 1791 to 1802 the District was managed by that three-member Board of Commissioners of the Federal City as listed below.

With the passage of the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801, the District was brought under the direct political control of Congress. The Board of Commissioners was dissolved. That Act made no provision for an executive for the District as a whole. The District consisted of five political subdivisions: three cities with their own municipal governments, and two rural counties. The pre-existing city of Georgetown and its mayors are listed below. The pre-existing city of Alexandria, Virginia, had its own list of mayors before, during and after its inclusion in the District. And the new City of Washington was chartered shortly after the District, in 1802. Its mayors also appear below. The rural county west of the Potomac, formerly Virginia, was Alexandria County. Finally to the east and outside the cities, formerly Maryland, lay Washington County, D.C. (Both counties were governed by levy courts made of providentially appointed Justices of the Peace, whose members do not appear below. Prior to 1802, those Justices of the Peace were appointed by the governors of Maryland and Virginia, after which they were appointed by the President until they were abolished in 1871).

In 1846, Alexandria County and the City of Alexandria returned to Virginia, leaving the District with two independent cities and one county.

In 1871, with the District of Columbia Organic Act, those three subdivisions within the District were unified into a single government, whose chief executive was a territorial Governor. As listed below, only two served before this office was abolished in 1874, and replaced with a temporary three-member Board of Commissioners appointed by the President. The board was made permanent in 1878 and this system continued until 1967, when it was replaced by a single mayor-commissioner and city council appointed by the President. Finally, in 1974, the District of Columbia Home Rule Act allowed for District residents to elect their own mayor.

Currently, the Mayor of the District of Columbia is popularly elected to a four-year term with no term limits. Even though District of Columbia is not a state, the district government also has certain state-level responsibilities, making some of the mayor's duties analogous to those of United States governors. The current mayor of the District of Columbia is Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, who has served in the role since January 2, 2015.

The lists on this page include all of the chief executives of the District of Columbia in their various forms.

Commissioners of the Federal City (1791–1802)


The 1790 Act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States, Act of March 3, 1791, 1 Stat. 214, set up a board of three commissioners to survey and define the territory of the Federal City, and to purchase land for development and oversee the construction of all federal buildings. Some reports name Thomas Johnson as the chairman of the Board of Commissioners, but it appears there was no chair, even if Johnson acted in the manner of a chair. The commission had very little to do with the municipal regulation of the District and when their board was dissolved their powers were transferred to the "Superintendent", "Commissioner to Superintend Public Buildings" and the "Chief Engineer of the United States Army." The local public affairs were instead governed by a Levy Court made up of Justices of the Peace who, until passage of the Organic Act of 1801 were commissioned by the governors of Virginia (for Arlington County) and Maryland (for Prince George's and Montgomery County – the north part of the District remained part of these counties until 1801), and in the Federal city their powers were transferred to the Mayor and local government.[2] During this time William Thornton, Robert Bowie, Daniel Carroll, and Robert Brent were some of the men who served on the Levy Court of Prince George's County.[3]

# Image Member Term began Term ended State Political party
1   David Stuart January 22, 1791 September 12, 1794 Virginia Independent
2   Thomas Johnson January 22, 1791 August 23, 1794 Maryland Federalist
3   Daniel Carroll March 4, 1791 May 21, 1795 Maryland Independent
4   Gustavus Scott August 23, 1794 December 25, 1800 Maryland Independent
5   William Thornton September 12, 1794 July 1, 1802 Pennsylvania Independent
6   Alexander White May 21, 1795 July 1, 1802 Virginia Pro-Administration Party
7   William Cranch January 14, 1801 March 3, 1801 Massachusetts Federalist
8   Tristram Dalton March 10, 1801 July 1, 1802 Massachusetts Pro-Administration


Mayors of the City of Washington (1802–1871)


The persons listed below are the mayors of the now-defunct City of Washington, which was officially granted a formal government in 1802. The Mayor of Washington had authority over city services, appointments, and local tax assessments; however, the duties of the mayor mostly consisted of requesting appropriations from Congress to finance the city. From 1802 to 1812, the mayor was appointed by the President of the United States. Between 1812 and 1820, the city's mayors were then selected by a city council. From 1820 to 1871 the mayor was popularly elected. The present-day boundaries of the "Old City" were Rock Creek to the west, Florida Avenue to the north, and the Anacostia River to the east and south.

Starting in March 1801 the County of Washington, which included the city (or corporation) of Washington and the city of Georgetown, was governed by a Levy Court, of unfixed number, made up of Justices of the Peace chosen by the President. It was one of these Justice of the Peace appointments, made in the 24 hours between the passage of the Organic Act of 1801 and the end of John Adams' term that became the subject of Marbury v. Madison. In 1804, the Levy Court lost the power to tax the residents of Washington City, but in 1808 the city was required to contribute to the revenue of the county and in 1826 the Levy Court lost the power to tax those in Georgetown.[3] An 1812 law fixed the number of judges to seven, two from east of Rock Creek but outside of Washington City, two from west of Rock Creek but outside of Georgetown and three from Georgetown, with none from Washington City until an 1848 law added four members from the city. Even when the City of Washington was not represented on the Levy Court, they were still required to contribute to the costs of the county, except for bridges and roads outside its boundaries. The court was again changed in 1863 when it was reduced to nine members, three from the city of Washington, one from Georgetown, and five from county lands outside the city. The Levy Court was disbanded in 1871 with the Mayor when congress consolidated all the remaining governments in DC. Some of the more prominent members of the Levy Court include Thomas Corcoran, John Cox, George W. Riggs, and Sayles J. Bown[2]

Image Mayor[5] Term began Term ended Political party
  Robert Brent June 1, 1802 June 8, 1812 Democratic-Republican Party
  Daniel Rapine June 8, 1812 June 14, 1813 Independent
  James H. Blake June 14, 1813 June 9, 1817 Independent
  Benjamin G. Orr June 9, 1817 June 14, 1819 Independent
  Samuel N. Smallwood June 14, 1819 June 14, 1822 Independent
  Thomas Carbery June 14, 1822 June 14, 1824 Independent
  Samuel N. Smallwood June 14, 1824 September 30, 1824 Independent
  Roger C. Weightman October 4, 1824 June 11, 1827 Independent
  Joseph Gales June 11, 1827 June 14, 1830 Independent
  John Peter Van Ness June 14, 1830 June 9, 1834 Democratic-Republican
  William A. Bradley June 9, 1834 June 13, 1836 Independent
  Peter Force June 13, 1836 June 8, 1840 Whig Party
  William Winston Seaton June 8, 1840 June 10, 1850 Whig Party
  Walter Lenox June 10, 1850 June 14, 1852 Independent
  John W. Maury June 14, 1852 June 12, 1854 Democratic
  John T. Towers June 12, 1854 June 9, 1856 Know Nothing
  William B. Magruder June 9, 1856 June 14, 1858 Anti-Know-Nothing-Party
  James G. Berret June 14, 1858 August 26, 1861 Anti-Know-Nothing-Party,


  Richard Wallach August 26, 1861 June 8, 1868 Republican
  Sayles J. Bowen June 8, 1868 June 7, 1870 Republican
  Matthew G. Emery[6] June 7, 1870 February 28, 1871 Republican


Mayors of Georgetown (1790–1871)


From 1751 to 1789, Georgetown was governed by Commissioners who were either appointed by an act of Maryland or were elected by the other commissioners to fill vacancies. in 1790 the government was changed to include a Mayor, a Recorder, Aldermen and a Common Council. During this time it was governed by nineteen different commissioners.[8]

Georgetown was a town in Maryland until 1801, when it became a municipality within the District of Columbia. From 1802 until 1871, mayors of Georgetown were elected to one-year terms, with no term limits.[9] Like the City of Washington and Washington County, Georgetown's local government ceased to exist in 1871, when Congress merged the three entities into the single District government.[10]

# Image Mayor[5] Term began Term ended
1   Robert Peter 1790 1791
2   Thomas Beale 1791 1792
3   Uriah Forrest 1792 1793
4   John Threlkeld 1793 1794
5   Pedro Casenave 1794 1795
6   Thomas Turner 1795 1796
7   Daniel Reintzel 1796 1797
8   Lloyd Beall 1797 1799
9   Daniel Reintzel 1799 1804
10   Thomas Corcoran 1805 1806
11   Daniel Reintzel 1806 1807
12   Thomas Corcoran 1808 1810
13   David Wiley 1811 1812
14   Thomas Corcoran 1812 1813
15   John Peter 1813 1818
16   Henry Foxall 1819 1820
17   John Peter 1821 1822
18   John Cox 1823 1845
19   Henry Addison 1845 1857
20   Richard R. Crawford 1857 1861
21   Henry Addison 1861 1867
22   Charles D. Welch 1867 1869
23   Henry M. Sweeney 1869 1871

Governors of the District of Columbia (1871–1874)


In 1871, Congress created a territorial government for the entire District of Columbia, which was headed by a governor appointed by the President of the United States to a four-year term. Due to alleged mismanagement and corruption, including allegations of contractors bribing members of the District legislature to receive contracts,[11] the territorial government was discontinued in 1874.

# Image Governor[5] Term began Term ended Political party
1     Henry D. Cooke February 28, 1871 September 13, 1873 Republican
2     Alexander R. Shepherd[12] September 13, 1873 June 20, 1874 Republican

Commissioners of the District of Columbia (1874–1878)


From 1874 to 1878 the District was administered by a three-member, temporary Board of Commissioners with both legislative and executive authority, all appointed by the President. They were assisted by an engineer (Captain Richard L. Hoxie). The law made no provision for a President to this board of temporary Commissioners, and none was ever elected, but Commissioner Dennison acted in that capacity at all board meetings he attended.

# Image Member Term began Term ended Political party
1     William Dennison July 1, 1874 July 1, 1878 Republican
2     Henry T. Blow July 1, 1874 December 31, 1874 Republican
3     John H. Ketcham July 3, 1874 June 30, 1877 Republican
4     Seth Ledyard Phelps January 18, 1875 June 30, 1878 Republican
5     Thomas Barbour Bryan December 3, 1877 July 1, 1878 Republican


Presidents of the Board of Commissioners (1878–1967)


In 1878, the Board of Commissioners was made permanent and re-organized. From 1878 to 1967, the District was administered by this new three-member Board of Commissioners with both legislative and executive authority, all appointed by the President. The board comprised one Democrat, one Republican, and one civil engineer with no specified party. The three Commissioners would then elect one of their number to serve as president of the board. While not quite analogous to the role of a mayor, the president of the board was the district's Chief Executive.

  Denotes an Acting President
# Image President[13] Term began Term ended Political party
1     Seth Ledyard Phelps July 1, 1878 November 29, 1879 Republican
2     Josiah Dent November 29, 1879 July 17, 1882 Democratic
3     Joseph Rodman West July 17, 1882 March 29, 1883 Republican
4     James Barker Edmonds March 29, 1883 January 1, 1886 Democratic
5     William Benning Webb January 1, 1886 May 21, 1889 Republican
6     John Watkinson Douglass May 21, 1889 March 1, 1893 Republican
7     John Wesley Ross March 1, 1893 June 1, 1898 Democratic
8     John Brewer Wight June 1, 1898 May 9, 1900 Republican
9     Henry Brown Floyd MacFarland May 9, 1900 January 24, 1910 Republican
10     Cuno Hugo Rudolph January 24, 1910 February 28, 1913 Republican
11     Oliver Peck Newman February 28, 1913 October 9, 1917 Democratic
12     Louis Brownlow October 9, 1917 September 17, 1920 Democratic
    Charles Willauer Kutz September 17, 1920 September 25, 1920 Independent
13     John Thilman Hendrick September 25, 1920 March 4, 1921 Democratic
14     Cuno Hugo Rudolph March 15, 1921 December 4, 1926 Republican
15     Proctor Lambert Dougherty December 4, 1926 April 10, 1930 Republican
16     Luther Halsey Reichelderfer April 10, 1930 November 16, 1933 Republican
17     Melvin Colvin Hazen November 16, 1933 July 15, 1941 Democratic
18   John Russell Young July 15, 1941 July 29, 1941 Republican
July 29, 1941 June 2, 1952
19     F. Joseph Donohue June 2, 1952 April 6, 1953 Democratic
20     Samuel Spencer April 6, 1953 April 6, 1956 Republican
21     Robert E. McLaughlin April 6, 1956 July 27, 1961 Republican
22     Walter Nathan Tobriner July 27, 1961 November 7, 1967 Democratic


Mayor-Commissioner (1967–1975)


In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson presented to Congress a plan to reorganize the District's government.[15] The three-commissioner system was replaced by a government headed by a single mayor-commissioner, an assistant mayor-commissioner, and a nine-member district council, all appointed by the president.[15] The mayor-commissioner and his assistant served four-year terms,[16] while the councilmembers served three-year terms.[15] While the council was officially nonpartisan, no more than six of Councilmembers could be of the same political party.[16] Councilmembers were expected to work part-time.[15] All councilmembers and either the mayor-commissioner or his assistant was required to have been a resident of the District of Columbia for the three years preceding appointment.[16] All must be District residents while serving their terms in office.[16]

Council members had the quasi-legislative powers of the former Board of Commissioners, approving the budget and setting real estate tax rates.[15] The mayor-commissioner could, without any Congressional approval, consolidate District agencies and transfer money between agencies, powers that the preceding Board of Commissioners had not possessed since 1952.[17] The mayor-commissioner could veto the actions of the council, but the council could override the veto with a three-fourths vote.[15]

Despite a push by many Republicans and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives to reject Johnson's plan, the House of Representatives accepted the new form of government for the District by a vote of 244 to 160.[18] Johnson said that the new District government would be more effective and efficient.[15]

Walter E. Washington was appointed the first mayor-commissioner, and Thomas W. Fletcher was appointed the first assistant mayor-commissioner.[19] The first Council appointments were Chairman John W. Hechinger, Vice Chairman Walter E. Fauntroy, Stanley J. Anderson, Margaret A. Haywood, John A. Nevius, William S. Thompson, J.C. Turner, Polly Shackleton, and Joseph P. Yeldell.[19]

# Mayor-Commissioner[5] Term start Term end Party
1   Walter Washington[20] November 7, 1967 January 2, 1975 Democratic

Mayors of the District of Columbia (1975–present)


Since 1975, the District has been administered by a popularly elected mayor and district council.


  Democratic (7)

# Mayor Term of office Party Term Previous office
Walter Washington[21]
January 2, 1975

January 2, 1979
Democratic 1
Mayor-Commissioner of the District of Columbia
Marion Barry[21]
January 2, 1979

January 2, 1991
Democratic 2
Member of the Council of the District of Columbia
from the At-large district
Sharon Pratt Kelly[21][22]
(born 1944)
January 2, 1991

January 2, 1995
Democratic 5
Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee
Marion Barry[21]
January 2, 1995

January 2, 1999
Democratic 6
Member of the Council of the District of Columbia
from Ward 8
Anthony A. Williams[21]
(born 1951)
January 2, 1999

January 2, 2007
Democratic 7
D.C. Chief Financial Officer
Adrian Fenty[21]
(born 1970)
January 2, 2007

January 2, 2011
Democratic 9
Member of the Council of the District of Columbia
from Ward 4
Vincent C. Gray[21]
(born 1942)
January 2, 2011

January 2, 2015
Democratic 10
Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia
Muriel Bowser[21]
(born 1972)
January 2, 2015

Democratic 11
Member of the Council of the District of Columbia
from Ward 4



See also



  1. ^ A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875; text of Residence Act dated July 16 1790. US Gov't Library of Congress. p. 130. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b Tindall, William. Origin and Government of the District of Columbia. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 6. Retrieved 27 April 2022.
  3. ^ a b Bryan, W. B. (1914). A History of the Nation's Capitol. p. 422.
  4. ^ a b Tindall, William (1903). "Origin and Government of the District of Columbia". Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Larner, John B. (1920). "List of Principal Municipal Authorities of the Cities of Washington, Georgetown, and the District of Columbia". Records of the Columbia Historical Society. 23: 180–7.
  6. ^ "Washington Election Yesterday". Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser. June 7, 1870.
  7. ^ Clark, Allen C. (1916). "The Mayors of the Corporation of Washington: Thomas Carbery". Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C. 19: 61–62. JSTOR 40067058. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  8. ^ Tindall, William (1922). "The Executives and Voters of Georgetown, District of Columbia". Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C. 24: 89–117. JSTOR 40067161.
  9. ^ Ecker, Grace Dunlop (1933). A Portrait of Old Georgetown. Garrett & Massie. p. 8.
  10. ^ "New Government in Columbia" (PDF). The New York Times. January 21, 1871.
  11. ^ "Bribes Paid by Contractors" (PDF). The New York Times. March 29, 1974.
  12. ^ "The District of Columbia Governorship" (PDF). The New York Times. September 13, 1873.
  13. ^ Gilmore, Matthew (July 2001). "Who were the Commissioners of the District, 1874–1967?". H-DC. Humanities & Social Sciences Online. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  14. ^ "DCPL: MLK: Washingtoniana Division: FAQs: DC Commissioners". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 6 October 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Carper, Elsie (June 2, 1967). "Johnson Orders New D.C. Rule: Hill Has 60 Days To Act on Plan, But Can't Alter It". The Washington Post. p. A1. ProQuest 143089272.
  16. ^ a b c d "How the District Will Be Run Under Single Head, Council". The Washington Post. August 10, 1967. p. A1. ProQuest 143177148.
  17. ^ Kaiser, Robert G. (June 2, 1967). "Reorganization Plan Redistributes Current Powers". The Washington Post. p. A7. ProQuest 143135451.
  18. ^ Carper, Elsie; Milius, Peter (August 10, 1967). "House Accepts New D.C. Rule". The Washington Post. p. A1. ProQuest 143033620.
  19. ^ a b Asher, Robert L. (November 2, 1967). "Senate Confirms Council: White House Oath Taking Likely for 9". The Washington Post. p. A1. ProQuest 143013366.
  20. ^ "Walter Edward Washington, 88; Mayor of D.C. Prevented Big Riots". Los Angeles Times. October 28, 2003. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h "Mayors of the District of Columbia Since Home Rule". Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  22. ^ Elected as "Sharon Pratt Dixon," but remarried in December 1991.