What is the council-manager form of government?
The council-manager form is the most popular structure of government in the United States among municipalities with populations of 2,500 or more. It is one of several ways U.S. municipalities and counties can organize. Under this form, residents elect a governing body—including a chief elected official, such as a mayor or board chairperson—to adopt legislation and set policy. The governing body then hires a manager or administrator with broad executive authority to carry out those policies and oversee the local government’s day-to-day operations.
What’s so special about the council-manager form of government?
Born out of the U.S. progressive reform movement at the turn of the 20th century, the council manager form was created to combat corruption and unethical activity within local government by promoting nonpolitical management that is effective, transparent, responsive, and accountable. The council-manager form of government recognizes the critical role of elected officials as policymakers, who focus on mapping out a collective vision for the community and establishing the policies that govern it. The form also recognizes the need for a highly-qualified individual who is devoted exclusively to the delivery of services to residents. Think about the structure used by many corporations, in which the board of directors hires an experienced CEO who is granted broad, executive authority to run the organization. While these boards establish the company’s overall policy direction, the CEO oversees implementation of that policy.
What types of communities use the council-manager form of government?
Today more than 105 million people in the U.S. live in communities that operate under the council-manager form. Forty-eight percent of the more than 7,300 U.S. municipalities with populations of 2,500 or more use the form, as do nearly 62 percent of municipalities with populations greater than 100,000. More than 800 counties also employ a similar system.
How can council-manager government benefit my community?
• Flexibility—The council-manager form can adapt to local needs and demands. While governing bodies in some council-manager communities are elected at large, for example, others are elected by district or by a combination of an at-large-and-by-district system to respond to local needs.
• Clearly Defined Roles—While there is no separation of powers between a local government’s executive and legislative functions under the council-manager form, there is clear distinction between the administrative role of manager and the political and policy leadership role of the mayor and governing body. Oversight of the day-to-day operations of the local government organization resides with the manager, allowing elected officials to devote time to policy making.
• A Roadmap for Success—The council-manager form is the system of local government under which professional management is most likely to succeed. Under this system, professional managers can focus on service delivery, policy implementation, and performance management and can align the local government’s services with the values, mission, and policy goals defined by the community and elected officials.
This Council-Manager form of government brochure from the International City/County Management Association gives additional information about the Council-Manager Form of Government.