The residents of Torbay voted in a referendum to decide whether they should have an Elected Mayor in 2005. This resulted in a ‘yes’ vote for Torbay’s first Elected Mayor on 20 October 2005. Gordon Oliver is now Torbay's Elected Mayor and was elected on 6 May 2011 and re-elected for a second term on 8 May 2015.

Following a Governance Referendum in May 2016, Torbay’s electors voted to change the governance arrangements from a Mayor and Cabinet to a Leader and Cabinet.  Therefore Torbay Council will only have an elected Mayor up until May 2019, after this time one of the 36 Councillors will be appointed by the Council to be the Leader of the Council.  To find more about the difference between the two arrangements see Governance Referendum

The elected Mayor has responsibility for giving direction to the council and managing the delivery of its services. He has significant decision-making powers and is the main representative for Torbay. The Mayor is elected by everyone in Torbay. He leads the council of 36 councillors, who are elected to represent particular areas known as wards. The Mayor can choose an executive of between 2 and 9 councillors to serve on a cabinet and they are responsible for the day-to-day running of the council. The Mayor is not a councillor.

The Mayor decides which decisions he should make within the overall policies of the council and which decisions the cabinet will make, either collectively or as individual members of the cabinet. The Mayor proposes a budget and policies for the council's approval. If the council rejects these or tries to change them, the Mayor is entitled to resubmit them, at which point they can only be rejected if two thirds of the council votes against them.