FOG Symposium

ICMA is calling for proposals for academic papers from master’s and Ph.D. level students that explore the qualities and actions that demonstrate the strength of mayoral leadership within a council-manager form of government. Proposals are planned for the "Form of Government Graduate Student Symposium" to be held at the 2023 ICMA Annual Conference in Austin/Travis County, Texas. This event will enable graduate students to submit papers or presentations that will guide our understanding of the council-manager form of government.

The terms “strong mayor” and “weak mayor” have been adopted in public administration to identify the level of formal powers and authority granted to the mayor in the administration of government. The mayor-council form of government is generally referred to as the “strong mayor” form and the council-manager (along with alternative forms of government where the mayor’s authority in the administration of government is limited) is commonly referred to as “weak mayor” form.

Unfortunately, the adoption of this colloquial distinction in the forms of government presents a negative connotation for mayors within the council-manager form of government. Specifically, it assumes that mayors themselves are weak political figures and weak civic leaders. The reality is that mayors have critical roles to play, no matter the form of government and level of formal authority is not associated with level of success for a mayor. Each form of government requires mayors to have specific strengths and abilities to be successful within the constraints of the form under which they operate.

The council-manager form of government is predicated upon the belief that administrative and legislative powers should be vested within one representative body (the council). Authority to run the daily operations of government is delegated to a professional municipal government manager who works on behalf of the council. The mayor, under a council-manager form of government, is the central figure who has the power to unify the elected body, professional staff, and the people they collectively serve around a shared vision for the community. Yet, there is limited scholarly investigations into what makes a mayor “strong” under a council-manager form of government.

As strong leadership is necessary for any community to thrive, greater attention to what makes a leader effective in various contexts is critical to sound local governance. That is why ICMA continues to seek out scholarship that informs our understanding of how the form of government can advance or impede the will of the people. 

Proposals are due by May 1, 2023, and should be no more than 750 words (excluding bibliography) to

  • Clearly articulate the research question and methodology for investigation.

  • Define the strong mayoral leadership.

  • Discuss the importance a “strong” mayor plays under a council-manager form of government.  

  • Provide a 60-word abstract that engages attendees and demonstrates how strong mayoral leadership in the council-manager form of government will benefit the community and policy decisions. 

  • Clearly articulate the methodology and any hypotheses/findings to be addressed in the paper/presentation.

This is an opportunity for graduate students to engage with practitioners, academics, and other graduate students as we collaborate to find ways to improve the quality of life of communities through effective government administration.

Individuals whose proposals are selected will be notified by June 1, 2023.

  • Accepted papers and presentations will be published online at

  • Authors/presenters will have the opportunity to present their research to ICMA members during the ICMA Annual Conference in October 2023. (ICMA will provide travel and lodging scholarships to accepted authors/presenters.)

Individuals with questions can email