Senior Advisor Program Guidelines

The following guidelines review the purpose of the program and provide guidelines for each of the key program participants, Senior Advisors, state sponsors, and ICMA, and provide structure for the program nationwide while recognizing the differing needs among the individual states.

Details of the program can be found in the remaining sections of the ICMA Senior Advisor Program Manual and by contacting the ICMA Senior Advisor program coordinator Pam Brangaccio at

A. Purpose of the Senior Advisor Program

The program is a partnership between ICMA and state sponsors to help address the personal and professional needs of individual members. Personal support is the program's priority activity.  Assistance to governing bodies, charter commissions, and community groups on the form of government is the second priority.

B.  Senior Advisor Qualifications

  • Be a retired member in good standing of ICMA and the state sponsor upon appointment and while serving as a Senior Advisor.
  • Have served a minimum of ten years as the appointed CAO of a local governmental jurisdiction OR if not served as a CAO, have had at least ten years’ management experience as an assistant/deputy CAO.
  • Maintain an active phone number and email address.
  • Be a resident of the state at the time of appointment.
  • Be willing to actively participate in the program for the duration of the appointment.
  • Affirm knowledge of and a commitment to the ICMA Senior Advisor Program Guidelines and the state sponsor’s Senior Advisor Program Policy.

C. Guidelines for Senior Advisors

  • Serve as a volunteer advisor, following retirement from local government in-service employment, to support state sponsor and ICMA members, with only out-of-pocket expenses reimbursed. 
  • Reach a mutual understanding with the state sponsor on the amount of time that will be available to devote to the program and what expenses will be reimbursed.
  • Follow up when alerted to members in crisis and CAOs new to the state. 
  • Contact all CAOs in your designated region by phone or in person on a schedule agreed upon and publicized by the state sponsor.  It is important to reach out instead of waiting to be contacted.
  • Maintain membership in ICMA and with the state sponsor and advocate membership in both organizations to nonmembers.
  • Maintain current knowledge about both sponsors' programs and services to help members make good use of available resources.
  • Uphold the high standards as embodied in the ICMA Code of Ethics. The primary mission of Senior Advisors is to serve colleagues and to represent the profession.  Senior Advisors should avoid participating in elections at the local level and should avoid taking a stance on controversial issues unless they act in concert with the state sponsor.  Before participating in any political activity at the local, state, or national level, Senior Advisors should consult with state sponsor leadership to seek their guidance and permission to proceed.
  • Be sensitive to the appearance of conflict of interest in considering part-time consulting jobs.  Consult Section F of these Guidelines: Avoiding Conflicts of Interest for permissible consulting activities and contact the state sponsor for guidance.
  • Submit quarterly activity reports and expense reports to the state sponsor. (Appendix D).
  • Attend the state sponsor annual meeting and any other meetings designated by the state sponsor.  Try to attend ICMA's annual conference when possible, especially when the conference is in the region.
  • Maintain an active and regularly accessed e-mail address.
  • If asked to provide assistance to local governments in recruitment and selection of a CAO, consult Section G of these Guidelines: Assistance to Local Governments in Recruitment of a Manager/Administrator and contact the state sponsor for guidance.

D. Guidelines for ICMA

ICMA maintains policies, goals, and guidelines for the program and conducts periodic reviews in consultation with key stakeholders.  The most recent review was conducted in 2013-2014.  ICMA also provides a Senior Advisor program coordinator to encourage and assist with establishing programs, to advise on policy, to share information on policies and procedures in other states, and to maintain regular communication with Senior Advisors.

In establishing a program, ICMA and the Senior Advisor program coordinator will:

  • Provide materials on starting and maintaining a Senior Advisor program.
  • Assist state sponsors in drafting appropriate policies and guidelines for their state. See Appendix A for a Recommended State Sponsor Senior Advisor Program Policy.
  • Provide a list of Life and Retired Members in a state to help identify potential new Senior Advisors.
  • Announce new Senior Advisor programs in coordination with the state sponsor and find ways to give Senior Advisors more national visibility.

In maintaining a program, ICMA will:

  • Pursuant to a mutually agreed upon budget, share expenses equally with the state sponsor. (Note: Should a Senior Advisor be asked to spend more than a day at any particular local government during a visit or to undertake a special project for the local government, reimbursement for travel and per diem will be covered by the local government and not the state sponsor or ICMA.)
  • Provide a timely response to state sponsor requests for approval of new Senior Advisors.
  • Provide a sample form that state sponsors can adapt for the periodic Senior Advisor performance review. This is conducted to ensure program effectiveness and that all parties are meeting the expectations as outlined in ICMA’s program guidelines and the recommended State Sponsor Senior Advisor Program Policy.  Share examples of review processes from other states when requested.
  • Provide Senior Advisors with ICMA business cards using the names of both sponsoring organizations and, upon request, ICMA stationery.  (See Appendix H for instructions on ordering business cards.)
  • Provide regular communications on ICMA activities and the profession to keep Senior Advisors up to date on current developments in the field of professional management.
  • Provide complimentary registration to Senior Advisors at the ICMA Annual Conference and organize a meeting for those in attendance.  Encourage conference attendance by including a contribution to hotel expenses for Senior Advisors attending from the ICMA region in which the annual conference is held.
  • Provide a list of members in transition via the ICMA Web site and include new MITs in the ICMA Leadership Matters newsletter.
  • Conduct a periodic assessment of the Senior Advisor program.

E. Guidelines for State Sponsors

In establishing a program, the state sponsor will:

  • Adopt the recommended State Sponsor Senior Advisor Program Policy (See Appendix A) tailored to the specific needs of the sponsor.  This includes guidelines for Senior Advisors clearly stating program goals, expectations, and the responsibilities of Senior Advisors and the state sponsor.
  • Identify a qualified, skilled, and experienced individual or individuals who are eager and committed to participate. (See Appendix E)
  • Establish a budget for the program. Annual expenses can range from $500 to $1,000 per Senior Advisor depending on the area covered and the activities of the Senior Advisor.
  • Designate one individual who is responsible for coordination and access to the state sponsor board.  In most states this is provided by the association secretariat, usually in the state league or a university. This is a key ingredient for a successful Senior Advisor program.
  • Contact ICMA, who in addition to the state sponsor, approves each Senior Advisor.  Also provide the budget that you have established and which ICMA is asked to match.  ICMA will then execute a letter of agreement. (See Appendix B) At this time, ICMA will coordinate with you on announcing the new program to your members.

In maintaining a program, the state sponsor will:

  • Review and approve Senior Advisor expenses and submit activity and expense reports on at least a quarterly basis to ICMA. Reimbursement of expenses will be contingent upon submission of proper documentation.  State sponsors are urged to reimburse Senior Advisors promptly and bill ICMA for 50 percent of the amount paid.  ICMA operates on a July 1—June 30 fiscal year.  Reminders are sent to state sponsors in May requesting that all reimbursements for that period be submitted by early July.
  • Provide regular communications on state sponsor activities; include Senior Advisors in statewide list serves.
  • Arrange a periodic meeting or conference call with all Senior Advisors in the state.
  • Encourage members to take advantage of the Senior Advisor program. For example, send congratulatory communications to all newly appointed managers copying the appropriate Senior Advisor.  Include an explanation of the purpose of the Senior Advisor program and the name, address, email address, and telephone number of his or her Senior Advisor.
  • Notify Senior Advisors of members in crisis and those whose employment has been terminated.
  • Find ways to increase program visibility. For example, solicit articles from Senior Advisors for publication in your state newsletter.  Publishing information about the goals, achievements, and individuals of the Senior Advisor program is the easiest way to gain visibility for the program and broaden support among members.  Also, recognize Senior Advisors on appropriate occasions, such as at a state conference and at board meetings.


F. Avoiding Conflicts of Interest When Senior Advisors Do Part-Time Consulting

Senior Advisors, as retired professional administrators, possess skills that may be marketable after leaving full-time employment.  This marketability can contribute significantly to the good of the profession, and it can offer opportunities for the Senior Advisor to benefit from gainful employment and to pursue professional interests.  The Senior Advisor program recognizes such marketability and its opportunities.  Assumption of a Senior Advisor position, however, includes an obligation to commit a minimum level of time and availability to the program and to conform to ethical standards as embodied in ICMA's Code of Ethics, Tenets 1 and 3.

The following guidelines are provided to assist both the Senior Advisor and the state sponsor avoid conflict of interest, in fact or appearance, and to facilitate consistency throughout the program.

  • Senior Advisors may engage in part-time consulting or comparable professional activities as private entities, or sole proprietors or as an individual corporation such as a Limited Liability Corporation. They may also engage in teaching, consulting, or interim service with state agencies, quasi-public entities, local governments, or regional agencies. Retired administrators who commercially advertise as consultants are not eligible for Senior Advisor appointment.
  • Any consulting or other activity should be part-time, intermittent, or on a short-term basis to permit the Senior Advisor to carry out active and responsive program responsibilities.  Should a paid engagement limit or become limiting to the performance of Senior Advisor duties, the individual should balance the engagement against resigning as a Senior Advisor so as not to impair the program.
  • Senior Advisors may be employed by a consulting firm on a part-time basis or as an independent contractor if the focus of the work is on providing technical expertise on individual projects and there is no responsibility for soliciting business or for client development/maintenance for purposes of future business.
  • When consulting or comparable professional services are provided to a local government for compensation, the services should not include those provided under the Senior Advisor program.  Such an engagement should be by invitation of the local government in contrast to solicitation by the Senior Advisor.
  • When a Senior Advisor is unclear about how these guidelines apply to a particular situation, the Senior Advisor should contact the state sponsor or the Senior Advisor program coordinator at ICMA for guidance.
  • A state sponsor may establish conflict-of-interest guidelines that further clarify or restrict these national guidelines but may not negate or lessen their effect or intent.


G.  Assistance to Local Government in Recruitment of a Manager/ Administrator

In some states, Senior Advisors individually help identify candidates and advise on the recruitment process for communities, especially small ones, which have chosen not to use a search firm.  Any involvement is up to the state sponsor, but that assistance should not include involvement in the final selection process, except perhaps in exceptional circumstances to maintain the integrity of the position. The following statement of policy is provided to clarify any Senior Advisor involvement in placement work: 

  • Senior Advisor involvement in placement work for a local jurisdiction should be the exception rather than the rule, as the main focus of the Senior Advisor program is member support and advocacy of the council-manager Form and other forms of professionalism in local government management.  Generally, placement work is best handled by a search firm or by the jurisdiction on their own, especially in cases where there are divided governing bodies or there are complex local issues. In cases where a jurisdiction lacks resources and seeks the assistance of the Senior Advisor program in a placement process for the chief administrative officer, basic guidelines are presented below.
  • Senior Advisor placement assistance to a local jurisdiction may include some or all of the following:
    • Discussing the placement process with elected officials at public meetings. This includes the option for a jurisdiction to use a search firm.
    • Providing information to the local governing body on the benefits of seeking an experienced public manager or assistant, preferably an ICMA member.
    • Working with the local governing body on determining position requirements, KSA’s (knowledge, skills, abilities) and compensation.
    • Working with the jurisdiction to prepare a position summary and advertisement based on local charter or code provisions.
    • Review resumes and application materials and assist the local jurisdiction in developing a list of those applicants meeting the requirements set forth by the governing body.  Note:  if more than one Senior Advisor is involved with the application review process, the Senior Advisors should be aware of any restrictions in state law that might prohibit discussion outside the public meeting.
    • Assist the local governing body in developing the interview process.
    • At the request of the governing body, facilitate the selection of the finalists for interview.  The local governing body is solely responsible for the selection of finalists for interview purposes. This should be done in accordance with applicable state or local laws regarding open meetings.
    • Assist the local governing body at the interview process but not participate in the actual interview.
  • What the Senior Advisors SHOULD NOT do in a placement process is:
    • Perform background checks on candidates.
    • Be involved in the selection of the candidate by the governing body.
    • If involved with a placement project for jurisdiction, offer to serve as or accept permanent appointment as chief administrative officer.
    • Be involved in negotiation of terms of employment for the selected candidate.