The concept of professional local government management is attracting interest in Mexico, and ICMA members Mark S. Watson and Kelly D. Daniels participated in an International Forum on the City Manager and its relation to the competitiveness of cities on October 27-28, 2011, in Mexico City.
The forum was organized by the government of Cuajimalpa (one of Mexico City´s 16 districts) in collaboration with ICMA, the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, the National Institute for Public Administration, three universities (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, or CIDE, Universidad Iberoamericana, and Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, or UAM), and the ETEISA consulting firm.
Mark Watson, city manager of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Thomas L. Beehan, Oak Ridge mayor, presented a conceptual framework for the city manager position in the United States. Kelly Daniels, chief administrative officer, Capital Regional District, Victoria, British Columbia, provided a Canadian perspective. And Rafael Arias Fallas, general manager of the municipality of San José, Costa Rica, spoke from a Latin American point of view.
Although all Mexican municipalities have a “strong mayor” form of government, some political leaders, members of academia, think tanks, and the business community have shown interest in the professional administrator concept. In fact, the border city of Tijuana established a professional manager position equivalent to a city administrator years ago and employed it for some time, although it was later eliminated.
At the forum, professor Enrique Cabrero Mendoza, president of CIDE, spoke in favor of implementing the position in Mexico but stressed the need for some institutional reforms first. Jorge Culebro, professor at UAM, agreed. The challenge in Mexico is a national constitutional mandate for three-year terms for municipal elected officials. The city manager position is gaining recognition as a means of providing continuity from term to term.
The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness presented information and data on the status of competitiveness in Mexican municipalities and suggested that the adoption of a city manager position could be a significant factor in increasing competitiveness. Other forum participants presented papers on planning and budgeting, government efficiency, urban processes and management, and other topics, all concluding that there can be no good governance without good administration.
The forum was the third public event focusing on the city manager in Mexico. The first two occurred in Saltillo, Coahuila, in northeast Mexico, in 2003 and 2005. On a smaller scale, meetings have been held to discuss the position in the states of Nuevo Leon, Baja California, and Sinaloa. Legislative initiatives have been proposed both at the federal and local levels to incorporate a professional manager position into the municipal legal framework.
ICMA’s office in Mexico, ICMA Latinoamérica, promotes professional management in the region through forums such as this one and through training, consulting, and other activities. It also promotes the adoption of the professional manager position through analysis of the legal framework, lobbying, and working to minimize obstacles and clarify misunderstandings.
Visit the ICMA Latinoamérica website to access Spanish-language papers that were presented at the forum, other papers and essays on the city manager/municipal administrator position, and a brochure of an ICMA Latinoamerica workshop on the city manager. Latin American municipalities that are interested in considering the city manager position can contact email@example.com.