Vote button trans.png
April's Project of the Month
It's spring time. It's primary election season!
Click here to find all the information you'll need to cast your ballot.

Council-manager government

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A council-manager government is a form of municipal government in which an elected legislative council hires a professional city-manager to carry out executive and administrative responsibilities. The council consists of a specified number of members, sometimes referred to as aldermen/women. The council members are often elected from distinct wards or districts of the municipality. The hired city manager is charged with implementing the laws and policies adopted by the council. He or she often has appointment and removal powers for heads of city departments and may be involved in the initiation of the budget. As a hired position, the city manager serves at the pleasure of the council. In a council-manager form of government the council may choose someone from among its members, often on a rotating basis, to serve as mayor. This is largely a ceremonial figurehead position.[1][2][3]

The council-manager form of government is one of the five historical forms of municipal government in the United States. The others are mayor-council, commission, open town meeting and representative town meeting. A city's form of government and distribution of powers may be determined by state law, the city's charter or local ordinances. The council-manager form is the most prevalent form of local government in the United States. It is most popular in mid-sized cities, with populations of 25,000 to 250,000.[4][1] According to surveys by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), as of 2011 59% of cities use the council-manager form of government.[5]

Advantages and disadvantages

The creation of the council-manager form stemmed from a desire by progressives and reformers to implement the developing theories of scientific management and principles of business administration into local government. Reformers believed that placing governing power in the hands of professionally trained administrators instead of elected, partisan legislators would result in a more effective government.[3] Below are some often cited advantages and disadvantages of this form of local government.


  • Administrative expertise;
  • Clear lines of authority and accountability;
  • Professional standards that tend to trump partisan/parochial concerns; and
  • Cooperation and partnerships rather than conflict.


  • In the spirit of democracy, city managers are not as accountable or responsive to citizens as it is not an elected position. Some contend that elected positions hold members of government accountable to the needs of citizens and foster better public engagement;
  • Tendency for manager to usurp policy making functions;
  • Manager may be a stranger to the city, seeking only to advance his or her own career;
  • Lack of strong, effective political leadership
  • Sometimes a manager cannot be dismissed as easily as the model assumes;
  • There is always potential for high turnover for city managers;
  • Similarly, the city council turns over at regular intervals and this results in potential changes to the manager position.[1][6]

External links

See also