COUNCIL-MANAGER FORM OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
The council-manager form is the system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials in the form of a council or other governing body, with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The form establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected council and where the council hires a professionally trained manager to oversee the delivery of public services.
The council is the legislative body; its members are the community’s decision makers. Power is centralized in the elected council, which approves the budget and determines the tax rate, for example. The council also focuses on the community’s goals, major projects, and such long-term considerations as community growth, land use development, capital improvement plans, capital financing, and strategic planning. The council hires a professional manager to carry out the administrative responsibilities and supervises the manager’s performance.
The city manager is hired to serve the council and the community and to bring to the local government the benefits of training and experience in administering local government projects and programs on behalf of the governing body. The manager prepares a budget for the council’s consideration; recruits, hires, and supervises the government’s staff; serves as the council’s chief adviser; and carries out the council’s policies. Council members and citizens count on the manager to provide complete and objective information, pros and cons of alternatives, and long-term consequences.
Mayors in council-manager communities (or chairpersons in counties) are key political leaders and policy developers. In the case of the council, the mayor is responsible for soliciting citizen views in forming these policies and interpreting them to the public. The mayor presides at council meetings, serves as a spokesperson for the community, facilitates communication and understanding between elected and appointed officials, assists the council in setting goals and advocating policy decisions, and serves as a promoter and defender of the community. In addition, the mayor serves as a key representative in intergovernmental relations. The mayor, council, and manager constitute a policy-development and management team.
The city council is the legislative body for the city. Its role is to adopt laws and policies to govern the city. The council leaves implementation up to the city manager and the rest of the city staff.
While the particulars of how council members are elected vary by city, members are always elected by the city’s residents. Direct election ensures that council members are responsive to the people who voted them into office.
In the city of Highland, the four council members are elected at-large, meaning that each of them represents all the citizens, rather than just a portion of them as in city's with wards. Further, all candidates for elective office in the city of Highland campaign as non-partisan, meaning they are not affiliated with any political party.
The city clerk is also elected and is responsible for taking roll call during meetings and taking meeting minutes. After the meeting, the city clerk records and edits the meeting minutes and then gets them approved before distributing the final copies. The city clerk serves as the Local Election Official and keeps the city seal.
The city clerk has many duties related to records management, including:
- Recording data
- Transcribing, typing and proofreading documents
- Filing, storing and maintaining records
- Preparing and maintaining official reports, legal documents and financial records
- Ensuring that the public has access to public records
The city treasurer is also elected. The treasurer signs off on all official documents pertaining to his office.