In a blog post last year, Huffington Post Media Group President and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote about mayors' rising prominence in the U.S.
"In recent years, as Washington has sunk further into a swamp of dysfunction, local leaders are rising to meet many of the toughest challenges facing the country," they said.
The trend is not only taking place on a national level -- mayors around the world are transforming their cities with flair and enthusiasm. Take a look at some of those mayors below.
Yiannis Boutaris (Thessaloniki, Greece)
While Greece has stumbled from crisis to crisis in recent years, many have said that if there is one glimmer of hope in the Hellenic nation, it's in the form of Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of the northern coastal city of Thessaloniki.
Boutaris might not look like a traditional politician -- he has street-bought bracelets, a diamond-studded earring and a gecko tattoo -- but he has tackled daunting challenges with the audacity of an experienced policymaker. Despite inheriting a deficit of €100 million ($135.69 million) when he took office in early 2011, Boutaris balanced the city’s budget, revived tourism and took on widespread corruption. If Boutaris continues on this route, he might just be able to restore Thessaloniki to the thriving Byzantine city it once was and inspire the rest of Greece in the process.
Tri Rismaharini (Surabaya, Indonesia)
The mayor of Surabaya earned her nickname "Mother Risma" by looking after the Indonesian city as if it were her own child. She’s been known to pick up trash at 5:30 a.m., hand out balls to local children while reminding them to study, direct traffic herself, and patrol parks for teenagers out past a city-wide curfew.
As the former head of the Sanitation and Parks Office and Planning Agency, creating and curating public spaces has been one of her claims to fame. There are now 11 parks in the city, all with different themes that range from Flora Park to Friendship Park to Skating and BMX park. And since she took office in 2010, the city's economy has grown more than 7.5 percent.
Risma’s goals for improving the city don't end there. She is determined to return the city to its former glory as a seaside trading center that the Dutch, Japanese and British once fought over. On her second day in office, she successfully lobbied the Indonesian vice president for a port development project; as a result, the harbor saw a 200 percent increase in traffic. Unsurprisingly, these various accomplishments won her the Globe Asia Women Leader Award in 2011.
Klaus Wowereit (Berlin, Germany)
When Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit proudly declared during his 2001 campaign, “I'm gay, and that is a good thing,” he broke ground as one of the first openly gay politicians in Europe. As the BBC wrote at the time, the statement achieved "cult-status." Two years later, Wowereit said that the city is "poor but sexy," coining what The New York Times described as "another line that has become an unofficial slogan for Berlin."
When Wowereit was re-elected for a third term in 2011, Berlin faced some serious issues, including high unemployment, an unreliable commuter system and low-ranking schools. Although the German capital still has ground to break on these fronts, Wowereit’s personal charisma has attracted venture capital investment and spurred a booming tech startup scene that the mayor believes will help revitalize his city's economy.
Naheed Nenshi (Calgary, Canada)
When Naheed Nenshi was elected in 2010 as mayor of Calgary, Alberta, he became the first Muslim mayor of a major city in North America. This is all the more notable considering many view Calgary as Canada's most conservative city. In an interview earlier this summer, Nenshi said that the topic of his background has rarely been raised by voters in Calgary, as they are much more interested in his plans for the city.
While Nenshi has faced significant opposition, such as from powerful real estate developers, he nonetheless landed the number two spot -- just behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- in the 2013 list of Canada's most powerful people from the news magazine Maclean's.
Anne Hidalgo (Paris, France)
Anne Hidalgo became the first female mayor of Paris this spring. As The Guardian writes, she had to “[defy] the French language police to be called Madame La Maire (and not the grammatically correct masculine 'le Maire')." Her election was particularly significant considering only a handful of the world's major cities, like Houston and Madrid, have female mayors.
Prevailing over grammar rules was a small feat in the history of obstacles the Hidalgo family has overcome. Hidalgo’s paternal grandfather fled Franco’s fascist Spain in 1937 and brought his family on a donkey across the Pyrenees mountain range. Her parents immigrated to France from Spain in 1961, when she was just 2 years old, and raised Hidalgo in social housing.
The mayor says that her childhood inspired her to pursue a career in town planning, and that the first thing she wants to accomplish is reducing inequality through affordable housing. She also plans to create more green space and a moped system as well as expand the city's electric car sharing service.
Gustavo Petro (Bogotá, Colombia)
As a former guerrilla member of Colombia’s now defunct M-19 rebel group, Gustavo Petro has gained a reputation for challenging the status quo and questioning authority. Following the infamous 1985 guerrilla siege of the Palace of Justice, which resulted in many casualties and "disappearances" of civilians, Petro joined the ranks of the official political establishment by negotiating a peace deal that gave amnesty to the rebel group's members.
After getting elected in 2011, Petro, a leftist mayor, has clashed with the country's more conservative political establishment. The inspector general deposed him earlier this year for alleged constitutional overreach when he tried to replace the city's private trash collectors.
Though Petro was reinstated in April, he is likely to continue sparking debate with his ambitious agenda, which includes facilitating peace talks with the guerrilla group FARC. As The New York Times writes, "some Colombians see [in Petro] the possibility of a nation free of armed conflict, where left and right would limit their fighting to politics." Still, many others in Bogotá criticize him for his style of management, particularly his handling of the trash collection system, and want him removed from office.
Annise Parker (Houston, Texas)
Although national headlines often feature highly visible mayoral characters like New York City’s Bill de Blasio and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, Houston Mayor Annise Parker has made a name for herself as well. As The Wall Street Journal explains, Parker "is a Democrat in a deep-red state, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city" and "a former oil-industry executive with a pro-business attitude running what may be the nation's least-regulated metropolis.”
Parker's agenda goes way beyond Houston itself: She challenged President Barack Obama in 2011 to "evolve faster" in his views on gay marriage, and this year she urged people in cities across America to get health care coverage. And although Houston is a huge oil producer, Parker won the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Award in 2011.
Mauricio Macri (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Mauricio Macri decided he would enter politics after being kidnapped for ransom in 1991. He gained popularity through his 10-year role as the head of Boca Juniors, Argentina’s famed soccer club, which saw huge success under his leadership. In 2007, he was elected as mayor of Buenos Aires and won re-election in 2011.
Macri has dealt with several issues during his time as mayor, including getting indicted in a 2010 wiretapping scandal and handling lengthy union strikes. In spite of these setbacks, Macri launched a presidential campaign for the 2015 election and will likely tout several advancements he has made as mayor, such as funding flood prevention projects, creating new bike paths and developing a city police force.
The mayor maintains an international presence as well. He recently visited Israel and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he identified with three kidnapped Israeli teens since both he and his sister had been abducted. If he wins the election next year, he has said he will work to improve Argentina's relationship with Israel.
CLARIFICATION: We have added additional context on Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro to better reflect the range of opinions on his leadership. The numbers have also been removed from the post to make it clear that it is not a ranked list.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that Colombia's inspector general deposed Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, and that Petro has facilitated, not hosted, peace talks.