Are there any legal controls over the actions of Maires?

Just a point of forum etiquette, am I incorrect to be calling them Mayors and Secretaries?
If I am having a conversation in English conversation I do not talk about needing a plombier or going to the banque or the marché or the centre commercial, but I notice that the convention here seems to be to talk about maires and now secretaires rather than mayors and secretaries, so I am wondering if there are subtleties that I am unaware of?

My fingers go all over the place… so Maire or Mayor… no matter.


Secretaire… I tend to use rather then Secretary… since in UK a secretary can be at any level… and Secretaire at the Mairie is a responsible position.

It’s usually called a ComCom (commune of communes), The number of votes each commune gets is dependent on its population, but no one commune can have overall control

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gets very dodgy around here, since we added a much larger town to our ComCom… they’re flexing their muscles… they asked to join us… and I wish we’d said NO…

Yes there is the CdC which I think works together quite closely on an ongoing basis where local issues are concerned but there are also departmental meetings which in turn are part of the AMF network, the Association de Maires de France. I do not think the AMF as a national body meets very often but there do seem to be regular departmental meetings.
As I recall a few years back when the government was making a lot of devolutionary changes and mayors all over France wanted to make their voices heard, the AMF did call a national meeting which was held in Paris. Our mayor decided not to attend and he was criticised for this by his opponents who said it was very remiss of him not to attend. He countered this by saying that if the commune wanted to pay his expenses for a jaunt to Paris then of course he would go, but he did not think anything would be achieved in a one-off meeting between mayors from all over France who between them have a wide range of concerns and opposing views. So my impression is that while no doubt the AMF is able to give advice and has the power to lobby it is at the departmental level that the network is most effective in practical terms. And of course there is a lot of cooperation at CdeC level for more local issues.

All of this useful guidance and support does make the assumption that the maire/mayor is willing and able to learn……sadly in small communes this is not always the case and once elected it can be hard to make them stick to the rules. Even with a good advisory group and experienced secretaire….

(A mix of english/french can be useful as instantly tells the reader what country one is referring to. I find that my language is mixed up now, as words I only ever use in french I never translate, and with many other words the french appears on my tongue faster than the english. If so, I use it.)

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not just small communes, Jane…

Isn’t there also the problem of mayors who stay mayor for to long.For me it should be two terms then out ,same as a president. The temptation of power, takes some over.

yet, it would be a shame to insist that an excellent Maire leaves office…

EDIT: and, of course, the Maire has to be elected by the voters of his commune… so if he’s no good, or they want a change… they can vote for someone else…

Except little communes vote for a list and if there is only one list thats it. Mayors tend to load the lists with there mates.No for me 2 terms is enough.

In our commune, population c.170, there’s always been 2 lists, once one only had 5 candidates , but 2 of those got elected ( so 2 of the 11 on the other list didnt). It was always the elected “conseilleurs” who elected the Maire, although I always got the impression that there was an unwritten agreement as to who wanted the position.


That rather suggests that there are not many people in your commune who want the job, as is often the case in small communes. It can take a lot of arm twisting to find enough names to even fill one list. In some places if you ruled that a mayor could not continue more than two terms, you would be struggling to find enough people willing to take over the reins.

One election, the chap who got most votes in the Polls thought he was going to be Maire… he was shocked and disappointed to learn that those “elected” chose the Maire…

With the “best man for the job” duly elected by secret ballot… the commune breathed a sigh of relief…

(Depending on how many lists and thus the mix of elected folk… it can be quite nailbiting… waiting to see who is to be the new Maire… )

Or perhaps feel sorry for their partners

In another article on this case one reason given as a motive for this crime was that the husband had never learnt French….

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And forgetful people like me ! I sometimes launch into a sentence, and I do know what I want to say, but half-way through, a word just won’t come into my head. It’s frustrating and to do with age I think. I remember it afterwards of course, but too late. But I do agree with Vero. I went to evening classes and took A level French before we came (definitely the oldest candidate in the examination hall) but it wasn’t enough. I used to take my huge dictionary wherever I went. I always listen to France Inter/Info/Culture in the car and we only watch French TV, except for dubbed US films. I’ve found it all helps a lot with vocabulary, accent, grammar and simply how best to say something. I don’t think the English accent will ever be eradicated, but I’m flattered when people think I am Dutch.

Continuing the language theme a little bit, even though it’s OT, we are both learning more French with a view to being able to take part a little when we have the house, but it will be quite some time (if ever in my case) before we would be fluent enough to enjoy conversation. It’s not unwillingness, but a matter of time, energy and much practice to be able to speak usefully.

Vero - you come across as I should expect someone French to be - you speak your mind and say what you think. Many people are tactless and judgmental, but social habit prevents them from expressing similar thoughts, rather than a sensitivity or concern for the welfare of others. You only have to look at the vaccinated or dead thread to see what happens when social inhibitions are rolled away and people speak their minds.

I have been attending weekly French lessons with my wife for the last 4 years. I am 74 and failed French ‘O’ Level 3 times. Although I am pretty OK reading and writing French it takes me ages to construct a French sentence in my brain and speak it - so conversation is very difficult. Listening and understanding French is even worse - there seems to be a linguistic barrier between my ears and brain. So not all Brits should be condemned.


Aren’t UK mayors just ceremonial figures? (I don’t know). Here among other things mayors have power of arrest because they are sworn in as part of the police, they marry people so they are like a registrar etc
And secrétaire de mairie are a grade of civil servant (fonction publique territoriale) and eg apply the budget and rules etc so not just someone who takes notes or deals with correspondence. Like a company secretary rather than someone’s secretary.
So a maire and a mayor, a secrétaire de mairie and a secretary are qualitatively different.


No. They used to be largely ceremonial. But now there is the ability to have directly elected Mayors, and many cities do so. No one could say that Sadiq Khan has no power as the Mayor of London!

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Nor indeed Andy Burnham too (I think that is the name of the mayor of Manchester who stood up to the government recently).

Thank you Vero for the clarification, I will try to remember to follow the convention even if I do not quite understand the logic since usually it is clear from context whether people are talking about French mayors sorry maires. or English.

Secretaries, do businesses really still employ bevvies of secretaries to take shorthand and type correspondence? I thought computers had put an end to low grade secretarial work and the receptionist types the few letters that are sent, and secretaries are of either the scary dragon gatekeeper variety or the executive variety who have their own specialisms and responsibilities and very often their own clerical assistants. Legal secretaries, medical secretaries, company secretaries, Secretary for State, private secretaries. I had not thought about the word but in my mind it seems to have come the full circle and regained the status it had in earlier times so I do not see the maire’s secretary as different from other secretaries. But I am probably wrong again.