With two more candidates on board, it’s not too soon to begin talking about the race for Portland’s first elected mayor.

On Tuesday we heard that current Mayor Nick Mavodones is in the race, and last weekend word dribbled out that City Councilor Jill Duson had taken out papers, although we can probably expect a more formal announcement later.

By my count, that brings the field to 12. The others are Eric Bennett, Zouhair Bouzara, Charles Bragdon, Michael Brennan, Peter Bryant, Ralph Carmona, Jodie Lapchick, David Marshall, Jed Rathband and Christopher Vail.

Ponder those names. Then forget them.

At least for a while, because before we elect our mayor, there ought to be a public discussion around what we want the mayor to do. Or, before we hire someone, let’s decide what the job is.

Some of this conversation is already taking place. Last month, the League of Young Voters and a group called Portland Tomorrow held a pair of workshop sessions where people broke up into small groups and talked about their goals for the city. For an election that is more than five months away, this is extraordinary.

But if these discussions result only in a list of issues, I don’t think they will be much help.

It may be that someone running for mayor of Portland does not care about walkable neighborhoods, high-quality schools or the creative economy, but he or she would really stand out from the pack. It’s pretty safe to assume that this will be a crowded field of people saying a lot of the same things about the issues.

I’m going to pay attention to the issues, but I’m also going to be looking for some personal qualities before I pick a candidate (or candidates, because with ranked-choice voting, you could end up voting for all of the above).

I want a politician. I don’t care if they have ever held public office before, but I want a mayor who can go from a Chamber of Commerce breakfast to a morning staff session, lunchtime news conference, and meetings with union leaders, neighborhood groups and developers, then a long evening with the City Council, and convince all of them that they are on the same page.

The charter commission did not create a “strong” mayor with a lot of executive authority, but it did set up a position for a strong political leader — if he or she has the skills to take on that role.

A full-time mayor will be in the office every day, and will have time to work with all of the city’s disparate interests. To succeed, he or she will have to be able to bring those interests together.

I want a communicator. There are jobs best done by unassuming people behind the scenes, but I don’t think this is one of them. Portland’s first elected mayor in 80 years will have a huge platform. After governor, senator and members of Congress, no politician in Maine will answer to a bigger electorate than Portland’s mayor, based in the state’s media capital.

The mayor of Maine’s biggest city should be one of the most recognizable political figures in the state. This is important because the mayor will be representing the city in Augusta and Washington and with business leaders looking to invest.

By the nature of our population, the mayor could be a leading voice for low-income families, immigrants and the homeless. How well the mayor makes the case will affect the health of the city.

I’m looking for a candidate who knows how to seize the spotlight and knows what to do with it when it is shining.

I want to hear some new ideas. A lot of people will tell you that we should have more high-tech businesses in town or better public transit. I’d like to hear from someone who has an idea or two on how to make those things happen.

The candidates don’t have to come up with them on their own. It would be fine if they went out and borrowed some ideas that have worked elsewhere.

But having a heart in the right place is not enough. The candidates will have to distinguish themselves by explaining how they are going to implement their ideas, not just describe their goals. And we all should be paying close attention.

Since no one around today has ever participated in a Portland mayoral campaign, there’s still a lot we don’t know. (Like when does it really start?)

There’s no tradition, no playbook and no conventional wisdom.

What we do have is a long list of people interested in the job. Before we start seeing how they measure up, we all have to invent our own yardsticks.

Greg Kesich is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or at: [email protected]