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An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions. Historically the term could also refer to local municipal judges in small legal proceedings (as in Pennsylvaniamarker and Delawaremarker). The title is derived from the Old English title of ealdorman, literally meaning "elder man," and was used by the chief nobles presiding over shires.

Usage by country

In Australia

Many local government bodies used the term Alderman in Australia. As in the way to modernise councils in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The term Alderman has been discontinued. An example of the use of the term Alderman was the City of Adelaide. Aldermen were elected from the electors in all the wards.

In Canada

Historically, the term "alderman" was used for those persons elected to a municipal council to represent the wards. As women were increasingly elected to municipal office, the term "councillor" slowly replaced "alderman", although there was some use of the term "alderperson". Today, the title of "alderman" is rarely used, except in some cities in Alberta and Ontario as well as some smaller municipalities elsewhere in the country that retain the title for historical reasons.

In the Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Irelandmarker the title was used by the first person elected in a multi-seat local government ward. The Local Government Act 2001 abolished the title as part of a modernisation of local government, and as such, none of the Councillors elected in the local elections of 2004 holds the title Alderman.

In the United Kingdom

Although the term originated in England, it had no clear definition there until the 19th century, as each municipal corporation had its own constitution. It was used in Englandmarker, Walesmarker and Irelandmarker, but was not used in Scotlandmarker. Under the Municipal Reform Act 1835, municipal borough corporations consisted of councillors and aldermen. Aldermen would be elected not by the electorate, but by the council (including the outgoing aldermen), for a term of six years, which allowed a party that narrowly lost an election to retain control by choosing aldermen. This was altered in 1910 not to allow outgoing aldermen to vote. Aldermen were finally abolished under the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, except for London Boroughs where the position was abolished in 1978. County councils also elected Aldermen, but not rural district and urban district councils.

Councils can still create honorary aldermen, often a reward for long service. This award is used much more often in Northern Irelandmarker than in England or Wales. Northern Ireland councils may additionally designate a quarter of their councillors as aldermen.

In the City of London Corporation, aldermen are elected for each ward, by the regular electorate, and until recently for life. To be a candidate to be Lord Mayor of the City of London, it is necessary to be an alderman and to have been a sheriff.

In Scotlandmarker, the office of "baillie" bore some similarities.

In the United States

"Board of Aldermen" is the governing body of many jurisdictions in Englandmarker. In these jurisdictions, the term is used instead of city council and its members are called "Alderman" or "Alderwoman", while in the state of Wisconsin, the term "Alderperson" is officially used. Some cities, such as Chicagomarker, mix the two terms, thereby having a city council composed of aldermen. Some states such as Pennsylvania established aldermen in the 19th century to serve as local judges for minor infractions. Pennsylvania's aldermen were phased out in the early 20th century. In this manner depending on the jurisdiction an alderman could have been part of the legislative or judicial local government. Boards of Aldermen are used in many rural areas of the United States as opposed to a larger city council or city commission.

See also


  8. for more see Jane Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics; esp Ch. 5

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