A city manager
is an official appointed as the administrative manager
of a city
, in a council-manager
form of city government. Called the chief administrative officer
in some municipalities.
Originating in Staunton, Virginia in 1908 during the Progressive Era
, the city manager form of government was created to remove city government from the power of the political parties, and place management of the city into the hands of an outside expert who was usually a business manager or engineer, with the hope that the city manager would remain neutral to city politics.
By the end of the era, around forty-five cities in the United States used a city manager form of government.
For many years, every city in Virginia had a council-manager form of government. Currently, 38 of the state's 39 cities use this form, with the one exception being capital city Richmond.
Typical roles and responsibilities of a city manager include:
- Supervising day-to-day operations of all city departments;
- Supervising the department heads;
- Preparing a draft city budget each year with options the council votes on;
- Researching and making recommendations about topics of interest to the council;
- Meeting with citizens and citizen groups to understand their needs better;
- Providing executive leadership that encourages good performance by city workers;
- Operating the city with a professional understanding of how all city functions operate together to their best effect.
In rare cases, city managers have hire-fire authority over all city employees, though these decisions may be required to be approved by the council, and must comply with locally applicable civil service laws. This authority includes talent searches for "department heads" who are the managers of the city departments. Alternatively, most governmental positions are generally secure after employees go through probationary periods of approximately one year, depending on the agency and position. In other words, it is very difficult to get fired in the career field of government jobs.
- International City/County Management Association, ICMA is the professional and educational organization for chief appointed managers, administrators, and assistants in cities, towns, counties, and regional entities throughout the world. Since 1914, ICMA has provided technical and management assistance, training, and information resources to its members and the local government community. The management decisions made by ICMA's nearly 9,000 members affect more than 100 million individuals in thousands of communities--from small towns with populations of a few hundred to metropolitan areas serving several million.
- Staunton, Virginia: Birthplace Of City Manager Form Of Government, a history on the city manager system of government.