Luis C. Castillo

Luis C. Castillo

A city manager is the chief executive officer of a municipal government in a council-manager form of city government. According to the Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas 251 of the 290 home-rule cities in Texas operate with a city council as a policy body and a city manager as the chief executive- administrative officer of city government. In North Texas city managers are plentiful.

By Luis C. Castillo

City Managers are hired by the city council unlike the mayor or the city council itself, who are elected to office by the voters. A city manager manages all the city departments and other municipal facilities. Typically, depending on the city’s population size, departments include the fire department, parks, and recreation department, police department, planning and zoning department, and water department. City Managers are fairly well compensated in recognition of the stress under which managers operate, particularly in large cities. City Managers serve at the pleasure of the city council and may be terminated at a moment’s notice. Because of this, contracts and severance agreements are prevalent. If a city manager is involuntarily dismissed from employment, he or she receives a specified dollar amount of termination pay.

Specifically, what does a city manager do? A city manager’s job includes managing responsibilities which may vary depending on the size of the city. A city manager interacts with many people from inside government to the public at large. City managers supervise city employees and take part in city council meetings in which the city manager gives advice on various issues being considered by the city council and the mayor. It should be noted that the city manager has no power in the decision-making process. It is the city council that has the final decision regarding laws and ordinances, and it is the city manager’s responsibility to ensure that these laws and ordinances are implemented and enforced.

City of Fort Worth

City of Fort Worth

The City Manager’s responsibilities include but not limited to the following. He/she implements policy decisions made by Mayor and Council, prepares proposed annual budgets, coordinates City operations and programs, appoints and supervises City personnel not appointed by the City Council, and recommends improvement in city operations. Other responsibilities include representing the city government during social functions and formal meetings with municipalities and government officials; mediating between political groups when disagreement exits, and act as a spokesperson to the media regarding council activities.

One of the biggest challenges a city manager encounters is managing city council expectations against what is feasible and within the city’s budget. Often it can turn into a balancing act because a city manager’s job depends on how the city council evaluates his/her performance.

Given the high demand and expectations placed on City Managers they need to be skillful in diplomacy and tactfulness. They must possess strong written and verbal skills, excellent organizational skills, strong critical thinking skills, public speaking skills, and a solid understanding of governmental processes and key roles that others play in city government.

This narrative is not intended to be an all-inclusive perspective of the city manager’s roles and responsibilities. I hope that at a minimum it has enlightened the reader with a better understanding of the city manager. But it is important to be mindful of the power that a city manager holds in city government. Always remember that the city manager serves as a policy advisor to the city council. So if you ever wonder why some things never change in city government even though the voters elect new mayors and city council members maybe just maybe the culprit is the city manager.

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