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A city manager is an official appointed as the administrative manager of a city, in a council-manager form of city government. Local officials serving in this position are sometimes referred to as the chief administrative officer (CAO) in some municipalities. However, in a technical sense, the term "city manager," as opposed to CAO, implies more discretion and independent authority that is set forth in a charter or some other body of codified law, as opposed to duties being assigned on a varying basis by a single superior such as a mayor.


Originating in Staunton, Virginiamarker 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 Richmondmarker.


As the top appointed official in the city, the city manager is typically responsible for all administrative operations of the municipality. Some of the basic roles, responsibilities, and powers of a city manager include :

  • Supervision of day-to-day operations of all city departments and staff, directly and through department heads;
  • Oversight of all hiring, firing, disciplining and suspensions;
  • Preparation, monitoring, and execution of the city budget, which includes submitting each year to the council a proposed budget package with options and recommendations for its consideration and possible approval;
  • Main technical advisor to the council on overall governmental operations;
  • Public relations, such as meeting with citizens, citizen groups, businesses, and other stakeholders (the presence of a mayor may alter this function somewhat);
  • Operating the city with a professional understanding of how all city functions operate together to their best effect;
  • Attends all council meetings, but does not have any voting rights
  • Additional duties that may be assigned by the council

The responsibilities may vary depending upon charter provisions and other local or state laws, rules, and regulations. In addition, many states, such as the states of New Hampshire and Missouri, have codified in law the minimum functions a local "manager" must perform

See also


External links

  • 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.

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