The importance and role of the Mayor today
One can suggest three main important roles for the traditional Mayor in today's local authorities and society.
As a symbol of the authority
The insignia of the mace, robes, chains of office etc. is a clear symbol of the Mayor's Authority in that area. The Mayor, through the office of Mayor and its trappings, connects the present day with history and acts as a symbol of continuity.
Until 1974 the use of the term "Corporation" symbolised the fact that the people were considered part of the Council and this strengthened the symbolism of the Mayor being the First Citizen who spoke for the whole town or city and gave an identity.
As a symbol of open society
A modern role for the Mayor is that the office symbolises an open society. The choice of Mayor is no longer restricted and the First Citizen can (and does) come from any class gender or ethnic background. The First Citizen no longer is the privilege of the white middle/upper class male and the new diversity reflects the more open and democratic society we now live in.
As an expression of social cohesion
The many, often social, engagements that are undertaken by a mayor are an expression of giving cohesion to the life of the city or town.