Council–manager government

The council–manager government form is one of two predominant forms of local government in the United States and Ireland, the other being the mayor–council government form.[1] Council–manager government form also is used in county governments in the United States. The council–manager form also is used for municipal government in Canada and in Ireland, among many other countries, both for city councils and county councils.


The council–manager form is much like a publicly traded corporation.[2] Under the form, an elected governing body, usually called a council, board of aldermen, or similar title, is responsible for legislative functions such as establishing policy, passing local ordinances, voting appropriations, and developing an overall vision, similar to a corporate board of directors.[3] The legislative body appoints a professional manager to oversee the administrative operations, implement its policies, and advise it. The manager position is similar to that of corporate chief executive officer (CEO), providing professional management to the board of directors. The position of “mayor” present in this type of legislative body is a largely ceremonial title, and may be selected by the council from among its members or elected as an at-large council member with no executive functions,[4] similar to a non-executive chairman in a corporation.

This system of government is used in 40.1% of American cities with populations of 2,500 or more, according to the 2011 Municipal Yearbook published by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA),[5] a professional organization for city managers and other top appointed local government administrators.

History in the United States

The concept of the council–manager form of government was a product of a confluence of the prevailing modes of thought during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[6] Probably the foremost influence was the Progressive Movement; following along the thought lines of the movement, the municipal reformers of that time wanted to rid municipalities of the pervasive “political machine” form of government and the abuses of the spoils system. The thought was to have a politically impartial administrator or manager to carry out the administrative function.

Another influence was the “Scientific Management” movement, often associated with Frederick Winslow Taylor. The focus of this movement was to run organizations in an objective, scientific fashion to maximize efficiency, among other things.

A third influence behind the council–manager idea was that of the organizational structure of the for-profit corporation, with its board of directors, which hires a professional CEO to run its operations.[6]

Sumter, South Carolina, has the distinction of being the first city in the United States to implement council–manager government successfully, although Staunton, Virginia, is credited as the first American city to appoint a city manager, which it did in 1908.[7] This appointment attracted attention to the fledgling profession and caught the eye of Richard S. Childs, who would become known, as the “father” of the council–manager form of government and the Model City Charter.[6][8] The first large city to adopt the council–manager form was Dayton, Ohio, in 1913.

In the early 21st century, thirty-eight of Virginia's thirty-nine cities have a council–manager form of government, with the capital, Richmond, being the only exception. Richmond switched to a strong-mayor–council plan in 2004, after having had a council–manager system since 1948.

The council–manager system has grown considerably in popularity since the start of the 20th century. In 1935, ICMA recognized 418 U.S. cities and seven counties using the system.

The council–manager form of government developed, at least in part, as a response to some perceived limitations of the city commission government form. Since it relies on candidates being elected at-large, minority populations are often unable to elect candidates of their choice. In addition, it may concentrate too much power in individual commissioners, who also manage city departments. The council–manager form became the preferred alternative for progressive reform. After World War I, few cities adopted the commission form and many cities using the commission plan switched to the council–manager form.

By 2001, 3,302 cities with a population over 2,500 and 371 counties used the council–manager system. Phoenix, Arizona is the largest city in the United States to retain a council–manager government.[9]

Recent hybrids

Since the turn of the 21st century, there have been numerous studies about the variety of hybrid forms of local governments that have evolved from the two "pure" forms (council–manager and mayor–council). The cities that have modified their organizational structure from one of the pure forms commonly are termed “adaptive” community organizations.[10]

These variations necessitate a delineation of the distinguishing features of the council–manager form of government. ICMA has listed at least three defining characteristics that distinguish a true council–manager government:

  • All governmental authority rests with the council, or other sovereign elected body, except for certain duties that are assigned by charter or other law to the manager, however, the manager always is employed at the pleasure of the elected body.
  • The appointed executive, a manager, officially is allocated the executive or administrative functions in codified form, minimum functions not being at the whim of a mayor, for example.
  • The manager must be responsible to, hired by, and can be dismissed only by the entire council, not one individual, such as a mayor or chairperson.[11]

“Model City Charter”

The Model City Charter (MCC), published by the National Civic League, formerly the National Municipal League, is closely associated with the council–manager form of government. The Model City Charter is in its eighth edition, adopted in 2003. Since its second edition, adopted in 1915, the model charter for municipalities has recommended this council–manager form of government.[12][13]

History in the Republic of Ireland

Following the turmoil of World War I (1914–1918), the 1916 rising, the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921), and the Irish Civil War (1921–1923), the Irish government found it necessary to remove the members of several local authorities and replace them temporarily by paid commissioners.

Both Dublin and Cork city councils were so removed. In both cities, there was a body of opinion that the services provided by the councils were delivered more efficiently and fairly under the commissioners than under the previous system, where the executive function had been, in effect, vested in the councils and their committees.

In 1926, a committee of commercial and industrial interests in Cork came together to consider a scheme of city government. Having regard to the city's experience of commissioners and recent experience in the United States a council–manager plan of city government was proposed.

After discussion between the minister for local government and local representatives, the minister, Richard Mulcahy, introduced as a government measure, the Cork City Management Bill (1929) and it became law despite opposition. The minister proposed and the Oireachtas enacted similar provision for Dublin City in 1930. Similar laws were passed for Limerick in 1934 and Waterford in 1939 under the Fianna Fáil government.

Under the County (Management) Act (1940), which was brought into operation in August 1942, a county manager is the manager of every borough or town in that county, but since the 1990s, has the power to delegate these functions to any other officer of that borough or town council.

The system was modified also in subsequent legislation, particularly the City and County Management (Amendment) Act (1955), which made some adjustments to give greater power to the council members, and the Local Government Act 1985, which provided for the council–manager system in Galway City once detached for local government purposes from Galway County.

The above acts have been replaced since that time, in substantially the same form, by the Local Government Act 2001.

See also


  1. ^ Svara, James H. (21 October 2008). "Strengthening Local Government Leadership and Performance: Reexamining and Updating the Winter Commission Goals". Public Administration Review. 68: S37–S49. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6210.2008.00977.x.
  2. ^ Local Government Management, ICMA
  3. ^ "ICMA information brochure". Archived from the original on 2006-09-04. Retrieved 2009-12-19.
  4. ^ ICMA forms of government
  5. ^ "2011 Municipal Yearbook". Archived from the original on 2012-03-13. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  6. ^ a b c Stillman, Richard J. (1974). The Rise of the City Manager: A Public Professional in Local Government. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  7. ^ "Staunton, Virginia: Birthplace of the Council Manager Form of Government". City of Staunton. Archived from the original on November 20, 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  8. ^ Ammons, David N. and Charldean Newell. (1989). City Executives: Leadership Roles, Work Characteristics, and Time Management. State University of NY Press.
  9. ^ "From the Mayor's Office". City of Phoenix. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
  10. ^ Carr, Jered B.; Karuppusamy, Shanthi (July 2008). "The Adapted Cities Framework". Urban Affairs Review. 43 (6): 875–86. doi:10.1177/1078087407311396.
  11. ^ Svara, James H. and Kimberly L. Nelson. “Taking Stock of the Council–Manager Form at 100”. Public Management Magazine, August 2008. ICMA Publications
  12. ^ Svara, James, on National Civic League Website
  13. ^ Public Management Magazine, ICMA, February 2003, Vol 85, Number 3 Archived 2008-10-17 at the Wayback Machine.

External links

Chief executive (Irish local government)

In local government in the Republic of Ireland, the chief executive of a city or county is the senior permanent official of its local authority. Whereas the county council and city council are elected officials who formulate policy, the chief executive is an appointed official who manages the implementation of policy. The position was introduced in 1929–42 based on the American council–manager government model, and until 2014 the chief executive was styled the county manager or city manager. Their salaries range from €132,511 to €189,301 per annum. The County and City Management Association (formerly the County and City Managers' Association) is the professional association for chief executives, and it is affiliated to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

City manager

A city manager is an official appointed as the administrative manager of a city, in a council–manager form of city government. Local officials serving in this position are sometimes referred to as the chief executive officer (CEO) or chief administrative officer (CAO) in some municipalities.

Covington, Virginia

Covington is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 5,961, making it the third-least populous city in Virginia. It is surrounded by Alleghany County, of which it is also the county seat. Located at the confluence of Jackson River and Dunlap Creek, Covington is one of three cities (with Roanoke and Salem) in the Roanoke Regional Partnership. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Covington with Alleghany county for statistical purposes.

The city has a council–manager government. The current mayor of Covington is Thomas H. Sibold Jr. The local newspaper is The Virginian Review, which has been continuously published since August 10, 1914. Covington is served by two radio stations. WKEY simulcasts on 103.5 FM and 1340 AM, and WJVR broadcasts on 101.9 FM with simulcast on 1230 AM in nearby Clifton Forge.Fire protection is provided by the Covington Fire Department, which was chartered on March 4, 1902. The Covington Rescue Squad provides emergency medical services to the city of Covington. Both the fire department and rescue squad are volunteer organizations. The rescue squad was organized in 1933 and is the third oldest volunteer rescue squad in Virginia.

Covington is named in honor of General Leonard Covington, hero of the War of 1812 and friend of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

Luke Mountain Historic District, Persinger House, and Rosedale Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Government of San Jose

The government of San Jose, officially the City of San José, operates as a charter city within California law under the San José City Charter. The elected government of the city, which operates as a council–manager government, is composed of the Mayor of San Jose (currently Sam Liccardo), the San Jose City Council, and several other elected offices.

The greater public administration of San Jose includes numerous entities, including the San Jose Police Department, the San Jose Fire Department, and the San Jose Public Library, as well as a mix of state and county level institutions.

Ithaca, Michigan

Ithaca is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan located very near the geographical center of the state's lower peninsula. The population was 2,910 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Gratiot County, and is run as a council-manager government. It is at the southeast corner of Emerson township, but is administratively autonomous.

Largo, Florida

Largo is the third largest city in Pinellas County, Florida, United States, and 4th largest in the Tampa Bay Area. As of the 2014 Census estimate, the city had a population of 84,500, up from 69,371 in 2000.

Largo was first incorporated in 1905. In 1913, it became the first municipality in Pinellas County to adopt a council-manager government. It switched back and forth from "town" to "city" a few times, and became a city again in 1974. It was an exporter of agricultural products until the 1960s population growth began to transform it into a bedroom community. From 1905 to 2010, Largo grew in area from 9⁄16 square mile (1.5 km2) to about 19 square miles (48 km2), and in population from about 300 people to more than 70,000. Largo began as a rural farming community and became the third largest city in Florida's most densely populated county.

Largo is a sister city to Tosayamada, Kōchi, Japan. In 2007, Largo was named a National Arbor Day Tree City for the 28 year in a row and is the only city in Tampa Bay that is a Sterling Tree City.

List of mayors of Kansas City, Missouri

The Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri is the highest official in the Kansas City, Missouri Municipal Government.

Since the 1920s the city has had a council-manager government in which a city manager runs most of the day-to-day operations of the city. Unlike most cities of its size, by charter Kansas City has a "weak-mayor" system, in which most of the power is formally vested in the city council. However, the mayor is very influential in drafting and guiding public policy. He or she presides over all city council meetings that he attends, and has a casting vote on the council. Due to these combined factors the mayor, in fact, holds a significant amount of de facto power in the city government.

Since 1946 Mayors of Kansas City are elected by the voters of Kansas City to four-year terms, and are limited to two terms under the city's charter. Mayors initially served one-year terms until 1890 when they began serving two-year terms. Technically, according to the City Charter, city elections are non-partisan, meaning that the mayor and city council run without nominal political affiliation. The mayor of Kansas City occupies an office on the 29th floor of the Kansas City City Hall, the building's highest floor. Eleven of Kansas City's mayors are interred in Elmwood Cemetery (Kansas City, Missouri). The current mayor of Kansas City is Sly James, who was elected in 2011.

List of mayors of Missoula, Montana

The List of mayors of Missoula, Montana begins with the establishment of the town of Missoula in 1883 (incorporated as a city two years later) with Judge Frank H. Woody serving as mayor. In 1883 Missoula used an aldermanic form of government that was approved with the town charter. The city adopted a commission-council form of government in 1911 with the opening of new City Hall and a council–manager government in 1954 before returning to an aldermanic form of government in 1959. Since January 1, 1997, Missoula has been governed in accordance with the Missoula City Charter, which calls for a mayor-council system of government.

The current system comprises a mayor and city treasurer elected in a citywide vote and twelve city council members who must reside in and are elected from one of six wards with each ward having two council members. All positions are nominally nonpartisan. Council members and the mayor are elected to four-year terms with council-member elections being staggered to allow only one member from each ward to up for re-election. There are no term limits for either position.

Lubok Antu District

Lubok Antu is a district in the Sri Aman Division of the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. It borders on Indonesia (Badau).

Mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina

The mayor of Raleigh is the mayor of Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina, in the United States. Raleigh operates with council-manager government, under which the mayor is elected separately from Raleigh City Council, of which he or she is the eighth member.

Under Raleigh's original 1795 charter, the equivalent of a mayor was the 'Intendant of Police' (a title borrowed from France). The first person to hold the office was John Haywood. He was elected by the city Board of Commissioners (who were themselves appointed by the North Carolina General Assembly). Starting in 1803, intendants were elected annually by all free men owning land within the city limits, including free African-Americans.The current mayor is Independent Nancy McFarlane, who was first elected in 2011. The longest-serving mayors in Raleigh's history are Avery C. Upchurch, who was in office for ten years between 1983 and 1993, and Charles Meeker, who served from 2001 through 2011. Four mayors have served for eight years.

Elections are held every two years. A nonpartisan blanket primary is held in October. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the two candidates that received the most votes progress to the general election run-off election in November. In 2009, for the first time, the election was nonpartisan, in that the candidates did not have formal party affiliation denoted on the ballot. Incumbent Charles Meeker won 62% in the first round, making a run-off election unnecessary.

Mayoralty in the United States

In the United States, there are several distinct types of mayors, depending on the system of local government.

Mayor–council government

The mayor–council government system is a system of organization of local government. It is one of the two most common forms of local government in the United States and is also used in Canada. It is the one most frequently adopted in large cities, although the other form, council–manager government, is the local government form of more municipalities.

Characterized by having a mayor who is elected by the voters, the mayor–council variant may be broken down into two main variations depending on the relationship between the legislative and executive branches, becoming a weak-mayor or a strong-mayor variation based upon the powers of the office. These forms are used principally in modern representative municipal governments in the United States, but also are used in some other countries.

Merced, California

Merced (Spanish for "Mercy") is a city in, and the county seat of, Merced County, California, United States, in the San Joaquin Valley. As of 2014, the city had a population of 81,743. Incorporated on April 1, 1889, Merced is a charter city that operates under a council-manager government. It is named after the Merced River, which flows nearby.

Merced, known as the "Gateway to Yosemite," is less than two hours by automobile from Yosemite National Park to the east and Monterey Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and multiple beaches to the west. The community is served by the passenger rail service Amtrak, a minor, heavily subsidized airline through Merced Regional Airport, and three bus lines. It is approximately 110 miles (180 km) from Sacramento, 130 miles (210 km) from San Francisco, 45 miles (72 km) from Fresno, and 270 miles (430 km) from Los Angeles.

In 2005, the city became home to the 10th University of California campus, University of California, Merced (UC Merced), the first research university built in the U.S. in the 21st century.

Moberly, Missouri

Moberly is a city in Randolph County, Missouri, United States. The population was 13,974 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Columbia, Missouri metropolitan area.

Piedmont, Oklahoma

Piedmont is a city primarily in Canadian County, Oklahoma, though a small part of it is in Kingfisher County. It is a part of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area. The population was 5,720 at the 2010 census, a 56.7 percent increase from 3,650 at the 2000 census. Piedmont is a home rule city served by a council–manager government.

Plano City Council

The Plano City Council is the governing body of the City of Plano, Texas, United States. The Council operates using the council-manager government. They hold regular meetings at the Plano Municipal Center on the second and fourth Monday of every month at 7 p.m. During the month of July, the meeting dates are revised.The Plano City Council is composed of eight members from four administrative districts. Each Councilmember serves a four-year term, extended from three years by the passing of a charter amendment in 2012. All Councilmembers, including the Mayor, are limited to being elected to two four-year terms. All Councilmembers are elected by popular vote of the entire city of Plano. Those running for Places 1 through 4 must reside in the district that corresponds to that place number. Places 5 through 8 do not have residency restrictions. Place 6 is always the mayor.The Mayor receives a yearly stipend of $18,000, and each Councilmember receives $12,000.

Raleigh City Council

Raleigh City Council is the governing body for the city of Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina.

Raleigh is governed by council-manager government. It is composed of eight members, including the Mayor of Raleigh. Five of the members are elected from the five districts that cover the city. The remaining three, including the mayor, are elected at-large. They are all elected every two years.

Sebastian, Florida

Sebastian is a city in Indian River County, Florida, United States. In 2010, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau was 21,929.Sebastian is a principal city of the Sebastian−Vero Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Indian River County.

Stillwater, Oklahoma

Stillwater is a city in north-central Oklahoma at the intersection of US-177 and State Highway 51. It is the county seat of Payne County, Oklahoma, United States. As of 2012, the city population was estimated to be 46,560, making it the tenth largest city in Oklahoma. Stillwater is the principal city of the Stillwater Micropolitan Statistical Area which had a population of 78,399 according to the 2012 census estimate. Stillwater was part of the first Oklahoma Land Run held on April 22, 1889 when the Unassigned Lands were opened for settlement and became the core of the new Oklahoma Territory. The city charter was adopted on August 24, 1889. Stillwater is home to the main campus of Oklahoma State University as well as Northern Oklahoma College - Stillwater, Meridian Technology Center, and the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

Stillwater has a diverse economy with a foundation in aerospace, agribusiness, biotechnology, optoelectronics, printing and publishing, and software and standard manufacturing. The city operates under a council-manager government system. The city's largest employer is Oklahoma State University. It was one of the 100 Best Places to Live in 2010, according to CNN Money Magazine.Stillwater is located in the area popularly known as "Tornado Alley." It has a humid subtropical climate and the highest recorded temperature was 115 °F on August 11, 1936 (46 °C).The city is home to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum and the NCAA Division I Oklahoma State Cowboys and Cowgirls.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.