Meanwhile, Ms. Lusk said, the positive aspects of the job were stripped away.
“They will tell you it’s the most personal job in politics,” she said. “If you can’t interact with the community, all of the things that sort of fuel mayors — the inputs that build up that reservoir of energy — that aspect of the job has been taken from them.”
There is little national data on local elections, so it is impossible to say whether this year’s turnover of mayors is unusual. In Massachusetts, nearly a fifth of the state’s mayors have announced they will not run again, as CommonWealth, a politics journal, reported, but that is not an unusual portion, according to the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
Decisions to step down are rarely made for one reason, and the year has increased pressure on leaders on many fronts, including conflicts over policing and racial justice. Among those who have offered an explanation, however, Covid fatigue comes up a lot. Michelle De La Isla, the mayor of Topeka, Kan., told The Topeka Capital-Journal that campaigning would make her workload unmanageable, and there “there was no way I was going to be able to do this at the same time” as heading coronavirus response.
Mayor Grover C. Robinson IV, of Pensacola, Fla., said he decided not to run out of frustration with the politicized reaction to health directives, after returning from a vacation and attending yet another contentious meeting. Similar explanations have come from the mayors of Highland, Ill., Pascagoula, Miss., and Seattle, among others.
Thomas M. McGee, the mayor of Lynn, Mass., a large, blue-collar city north of Boston, described parts of last year as “a blur,” as the virus raced through crowded neighborhoods that were home to multiple generations of families.
Lynn was classified as a high-risk zone for all but two weeks of the past year, and the sense of crisis has never abated, even now that the vaccination drive is underway.