Since it was first created a century ago, the council-manager form of government has become the most popular structure of local government in the United States. While many new municipalities have been incorporated with managers from their beginnings, many cities and counties across the country have made a deliberate change from strong-mayor to council-manager. Appointing a non-partisan professional manager with the authority to carry out the policies set by the elected body has advantages for many communities, and several have recently made the switch. Individual states determine the specific allowances for municipal forms of government and the process for changing it, but as these current cases show, all jurisdictions give careful consideration to this major change.
Two communities in Georgia are establishing the first manager positions. The first County Manager of Clayton County, Ga. will soon take office, after the final decision came down to a close vote in the county council. Clayton is one of the few counties in Georgia left without a manager. Lawrenceville, Ga. has also been considering adding a City Manger to this 189 year old community. It is the largest municipality in Gwinnett County, Ga., and one of just two in the county without a manger. Many city officials and residents are lobbying for the change, but a former mayor and Georgia’s governor have opposed it.
Other Southern jurisdictions have also been weighing the options of a council-manager system. Pell City, Ala. is currently debating the pros and cons of creating a City Manager position as well as who should make the final decision. The county commissioner and a local judge in Bexar County, Tex. have placed a plan to establish a County Manager position on the Commissioner’s Court agenda. Their hope is that a County Manager would work closely with the San Antonio, Tex. City Manager and streamline work between the two sections of government.
Initiating the change to a council-manager form of government is a big step for a jurisdiction, but the process of implementing the manager can be even more challenging. ICMA’s Council Manager Form Resource Package includes articles, statistics, and other resources to help residents, elected officials, and business leaders better understand this system of government. The resources in this package are linked below:
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