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Posted on April 2, 2018 at 3:51 PM by Whitney Slightham
Ever wonder what it is that I do – that is, what does a City
Manager do? In this post, I will share
with you a little about the Council/Manager form of government, the
relationship between the Council and the City Manager, and a glimpse into a day
in the life of the City Manager.
Let me first pause and say, I have the greatest job there is
– ok maybe a professional baseball player would be better, but if you would see
me play, you would know that I made a wise career choice. I love what I do because I love local
government. Helping people address challenges
and opportunities closest to where they live, raise families, and work is truly
special. I am afforded a special
privilege of influence regarding what we do and do not do in the City and I
take that responsibility very seriously.
As a Credentialed Manager with the International City and County
Managers Association, I have agreed to conduct myself in accordance with a set of ethical standards.
Staunton, Virginia is credited as the first city to adopt
the City Manager form of government and hire a professional manager in 1908. Since that time, more than 3,300 cities, as
small as Staunton and as large as Phoenix, Arizona have adopted the
Council-Manager form of government.
Borne out of the progressive movement in the early part of the 20th
Century, the Council-Manager form was a direct response to the corruption and
improper conduct found among many elected officials throughout the Nation in
cities, big and small. The introduction
of a professional running the day-to-day operations of the government, in
partnership with an elected Council establishing broad policies and direction,
was believed to be the antidote to much of what was not working in government
at the local level.
In the Council-Manager form, the Manager functions a lot
like the CEO of a private Corporation, most often with the help of Assistant Managers,
who would function as CFO’s and COO’s in the private sector. In this analogy,
the Council functions much like the Board of Directors, establishing policy and
providing broad direction for the organization, holding the Manager accountable
for results aligned with this guidance.
With but a few exceptions, nearly everyone hired to deliver services
reports to the City Manager, not the Council – that is the Manager does the
hiring, firing, and promoting of nearly all of the workforce present in the
Roanoke City government. The City
Manager is hired by and held accountable to the City Council.
City Council and City Manager
As previously mentioned, the City Manager is hired by and
reports to the City Council. The Council,
through adoption of official policies and routine public meetings, provide the
broad direction that the Manager is expected to advance. In Roanoke, this includes an adopted Vision Statement, Mission, and several key priority areas.
In addition to these formal
interactions, the Manager often meets individually with Council members. These meetings help ensure that each Council
member is afforded the opportunity to consult with the Manager individually, in
addition to their interactions as a corporate body.
A strong and healthy relationship between the Council and
the Manager is essential. It is the
Council that stands for election by the citizens, therefore they provide the
best understanding of what citizens value and seek. The Manager, on the other hand, has the best
understanding of the governmental organization and how best to marshal
resources to deliver on Council priorities.
Let me pause here once again, to highlight specifically the
role of the Mayor in the Council-Manager form of government. In such cases, the Mayor is officially one of
the Council members, responsible for conducting the meetings of the
Council. The Mayor is generally viewed
as the leader of the elected officials and is often called upon to perform
specific duties assigned uniquely to the Mayor.
In the Council-Manager form, the role of Mayor is largely symbolic, which
contrasts to a Strong-Mayor form of government where the Mayor, not the City
Manager, runs the day-to-day operations of the City. Due to the public perception of the role of
Mayor in most communities, it is a very important role and often the
relationship between the Mayor and the Manager is one of the most important.
A Typical Day
So what does a typical day look like in the life of a City
Manager? Well, the first thing one
should note is there is no typical day for a City Manager – that is actually
one of the things that I love most about the job. For me, more often than not, my typical week
consists of numerous meetings – varying from meetings with the Mayor and
Council members to residents or business owners seeking resolution to an
issue. Here is just a glimpse of my
schedule from a few weeks ago:
This post provides a glimpse into what a City Manager is and
does and why. If you are interested in
learning more, I suggest looking at the brochure provided by ICMA. or you may want to drop me an email with any questions you might have.
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