Who runs your city/town? This has always been a conundrum to the locals. In terms of developments and different matters affecting the city, people need to know who does what? And who is accountable? In the local government, this is a tough nut to crack as they are run by both the city mayor and city manager. In this informative piece, we will try to break down the local government administration and hopefully at the end, the answer will be clear.

To unravel this mystery, let us start by understanding the city government structures which are:

Mayor-council (or the mayoral system)

In this type, the elected mayor works alongside a legislative body/council. Depending on the municipal charter, the mayor’s responsibilities differ. For some, they are there for a ceremonial role while in other cities, they are hands-on with issues like immigration and public health.

Council-manager ( otherwise known as city manager system)

This form of government consists of a council which appoints a city manager based on their qualification and achievements. The mayor is part of the appointing council. The city manager is put in charge of administrative roles and presents cases to the council for a vote.

City commission government.

City commission government is brought to life by voters. They elect the commissioners who are in charge of different departments.
Since the latter isn’t that much common, let us concentrate on the first two. The powers of the mayor and the city manager are sometimes difficult to differentiate. As it is, some cities are run by city managers, others by mayors.

To distinguish between the two, the city mayor is an elective position by the city’s citizens while the city manager is appointed by the city council. Furthermore, the mayor’s position is more political while the city manager runs things behind the scenes. When the manager is appointed, they take up a neutral role and stay away from any political events as per the code of ethics by the International City/County

  • Management Association (ICMA).
  • In terms of responsibilities, the city mayor;
  • Presides over the city council
  • Appoints and removes department heads
  • Signs city proclamations
  • Makes ceremonial appearance
  • Implements legislation
  • Votes in the county council

For the city manager:

  • They oversee city employees hiring and firing
  • They handle public relations
  • Supervise the city staff’s and departments operations
  • Prepares and monitors the city budget
  • These and many more responsibilities differ depending on the city. In a single mayoral system, the mayor assumes all the roles.

This is a good place to begin to understand who runs our cities. With this information, we believe you can be able to tell the difference.