Council-Manager Form of Government Frequently Asked Questions

What is the council-manager form, which is used in so many local governments?

The council-manager form is the system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials in the form of a council or other governing body, with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The form establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected council and where the council hires a professionally trained manager to oversee the delivery of public services.

Is it a responsive form of government?

In council-manager government, council members are the leaders and policy makers elected to represent various segments of the community and to concentrate on policy issues that are responsive to citizens' needs and wishes. The manager is appointed by the Mayor and Council to carry out policy and ensure that the entire community is being served.

What is the Mayor and Council's function?

The Mayor and Council is the legislative body; its members are the community's decision makers. Power is centralized in the elected Mayor and Council, which approves the budget and determines the tax rate, for example. The Mayor and Council also focuses on the community's goals, major projects, and such long-term considerations as community growth, land use development, capital improvement plans, capital financing, and strategic planning. The Mayor and Council hire a professional manager to carry out the administrative responsibilities and supervise the manager's performance.

What is the city manager's function?

The city manager is hired to serve the Mayor and Council and the community and to bring to the local government the benefits of training and experience in administering local government projects and programs on behalf of the governing body. The manager prepares a budget for the Mayor and Council's consideration; recruits, hires, and supervises the government's staff; serves as the Mayor and Council's chief adviser; and carries out the Mayor and Council's policies. The Mayor and Council and citizens count on the manager to provide complete and objective information, pros and cons of alternatives, and long-term consequences.

Does the city manager participate in policy determination?

The city manager makes policy recommendations to the Mayor and Council, but the Mayor and Council may or may not adopt them and may modify the recommendations. The city manager is bound by whatever action the Mayor and Council takes.

Are all council-manager governments structured the same way?

While the Winchester Mayor is elected at large and the Common Council is elected by ward, some local governments have mayors who are elected by their colleagues on the council (appointed).

How much citizen participation is possible under council-manager government?

The City of Winchester welcomes citizen participation in the decision-making process. Because professional local government management offers government of the people, by the people, and for the people, it sets the stage for citizen activism by encouraging open communication between citizens and their government. Examples range from visioning, in which citizens play a major role in determining the future of their community to community-service activities. Citizens also have the opportunity to present issues to the Mayor and Council at committee meetings; talk one-on-one with council members; or express their concerns at a Public Hearing or Council Meeting. In addition, citizens are encouraged to become members of boards and commissions.

How is the city manager selected?

The vacancy usually is announced in the ICMA Newsletter, and city managers, assistants, and others who are interested apply directly to the Mayor and Council. The Mayor and Council conducts a search for candidates, often by inviting managers in other communities to apply if they are interested. ICMA makes no recommendations regarding candidates. Further information is available in the handbook Recruitment Guidelines for Selecting a Local Government Administrator, published by ICMA.

Can the city manager be fired?

City managers serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and Council. They can be fired by a majority of the Mayor and Council, consistent with local laws, ordinances, or employment agreements they may have with the Mayor and Council. Control is always in the hands of the elected representatives of the people.