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Regidor is a Spanish term that refers to a person serving on an ayuntamiento, or council operated as the governing body of a town. A regidor represents the community or a section of the community on the council. The purpose of the council is to advise the alcalde, the person serving as the town's mayor and the council's chief executive.
An ayuntamiento, or council, manages the affairs of a town. It regulates the police, establishes taxes, passes laws, and makes numerous other decisions for the town. A regidor serving on a council historically didn't necessarily have community support, because wealthy people traditionally would purchase or inherit the position. To serve on an ayuntamiento, a regidor once was required to own land. Communities eventually began electing regidors to serve on councils and land ownership was no longer a requirement.
Spain is where the system of regulating a town through an ayuntamiento was developed and where the position of regidor emerged. Many Latin American countries adopted Spain’s method of governing a community, and many still refer to a council member as a regidor. Spain also imposed its system of governing a community on many of the American Indian tribes in New Mexico. Spain called these tribes pueblos, and a tribal council and governor still typically manage the affairs of a pueblo.
The number of regidors serving on a council depends on the population of the town it leads. A regidor has an equal vote on matters requiring decisions of the council. Regidors historically would appoint a person to serve as alcalde. The alcalde was the head of the council, had the right to cast a vote on council decisions, and had both administrative and judicial functions.
Communities eventually began electing a member of the community to serve as alcalde. As head of the council, the alcalde also was a regidor, conducted meetings and listened to the advice of the other regidors. The duties of the alcalde once included serving as a judge to resolve disputes between members of the community. His duties as head of the council, judicial official and community executive were blurred, which created political conflicts. The alcalde also served historically as a link between his town and the royal authorities of Spain.
A regidor, as a member of the council, would hear appeals from community members unhappy with decisions of the alcalde. The council would listen to the appeal and decide whether to uphold the decision. Decisions made by the alcalde and council were based on customs and traditions of the community. As time passed, written laws became more of a controlling factor for decisions.