City Government Structure

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Charter Review Committee

City Government Structure

Date: January, 2005

Sub Committee Members : Hal Cloer, Donald Montgomery

Issue Statement:

Should the city council appoint a city manager who is responsible to the council and subject to termination by a majority of the council?

If so, should the mayor have the unilateral authority to closely supervise the city manager and the officers and employees of the city?


Section 2.28.040 of the present Ashland City charter sets forth the administrative responsibilities of the City Administrator as follows "The City Administrator shall have responsibility for the general administrative coordination of all City departments except for those officers and employees of the Parks Department. The City Administrator shall have the right to submit recommendations to the Mayor, with confirmation by the City Council, as to the appointment or dismissal of any principal officer or Department head. The Mayor and City Council, City Administrator, or the appropriate Department head may directly appoint or dismiss any subordinate employee." In addition, Section 2.28.030 of the City charter indicates that "The City Administrator shall have the duties, responsibilities, authorities and jurisdictions provided by the City Charter, the ordinances and resolutions adopted by the Council … With City Council acknowledgment, the City Administrator is hereby empowered to make such rules and regulations for the conduct of the various administrative departments of the City as may be deemed necessary from time to time"


Under these provisions, the City Administrator, while responsible for the general administrative coordination of all City departments, may make recommendations relative only to the appointment and dismissal of any principal officer or Department head. However, the City Administrator may directly appoint or dismiss any subordinate employee of the City.

In contrast, the Model Charter for Oregon Cities makes provision for a City Manager, stating, in part, that "The office of city manager is established as the administrative head of the city government. The City Manager is responsible to the mayor and council for the proper administration of all city business". Moreover, the Model Charter states that "The manager must appoint, supervise and remove city employees …"

In the last decade, considerable research has been directed towards an analysis and evaluation of forms of municipal government. This research has revealed that there is a contemporary trend towards hybrid forms of government, drawing the strong elements from each of the classical forms to create a more balanced and effective government structure. Various researchers have found weaknesses in both a strong mayor government and a strong manager government. For example, Nalbandian (1) has noted that the criticism of a strong manager structure falls into three major areas, namely, a) it gives too much power to the city manager and administrative staff, b) it fails to promote political leadership and accountability, and c) it frustrates political representation for minority citizens and viewpoints. Political leadership is a key issue for all government forms, and is well addressed by Protasel (2) who observes about a mayor's job description " strong leadership from the mayor as at least a coordinator and preferably as a director, is no longer optional in light of the increasing demands on city government. If these activities are not undertaken by the mayor, a serious vacuum exists." Nalbandian succinctly sums up the current view of government structure by noting that "the issue of whether to have a strong mayor or strong manager structure is artificial because you need strong political leadership wherever you can possibly attain it. You need both a strong mayor and professional management". This view is particularly pertinent in light of the fact that Ashland is no longer a village with few employees, and a modest budget, but more an expanding corporation with a

$100 M, and likely increasing, budget. A government structure crafted to effectively manage and lead the community for the future seems essential.

Pros and Cons:

Appoint a City Manager


Provides city with opportunity to appoint a manager trained in public administration.

Corrects the present limitations of the city administrator, including the inability

to hire and dismiss principal officers and department heads for which he/she is


Frees the mayor from administrative duties and allows him/her to serve

as the political leader and policy developer for the city.

Provides for the city manager to be accountable to the entire city council for

the satisfactory implementation of council policy and day-to-day

administration of municipal affairs.

A city manager would be prone to use merit as the leading criterion for making

all hiring and personnel decisions.


Under some circumstances, depending on personalities, a competitive and

contentious relationship could develop between the mayor and city manager.

Increasing authority of the city manager reduces power of the mayor.

Elected Mayor Supervises City Manager, City Officers and Employees?


Mayor would have ability to insure city staff implements his/her policies.


Would severely usurp the authority of the city manager.

Would put the mayor in the position of micromanaging the administration of

the city.

Would detract the mayor from serving as the political leader of the city,

responsible for developing policy, providing the long term vision and setting

the tone for the community.

Budget Implications:

Overall city cost may be reduced, providing reduced operating costs, increased efficiency and productivity, and effective use of technology.


Within the last decade, surveys and research results indicate that municipal governments have moved to incorporate the best elements of the classical government forms to create hybrid structures. These hybrid structures most often have incorporated an elected mayor to serve as the political leader of the community while engaging a council-appointed city manager to oversee the day-to-day administration of the city, carry out council policy and handle the hiring and personnel matters of the city. Most municipalities appoint a city manager who is formally educated and trained in public administration. The current Ashland City charter provides for an elected mayor and a city administrator with the responsibility for the day-to-day administration of city operations but with no authority to hire or dismiss principal officers of department heads. Such authority rests with the council. With an empowered city manager, council members can be devoted to legislative matters while the mayor is free of administrative responsibilities in order to devote attention to developing policy, establishing a long range vision and setting the tone for the community. With a structure involving a mayor and city manager (in contrast to a city administrator), and depending upon personalities, it is possible for a contentious and competitive relationship to develop between the mayor and manager. With Ashland now a $100M corporation it may be prudent to consider the benefits of a city manager structure.

The Charter Committee must weigh whether to recommend the adoption of a city-manager form of government, or some hybrid thereof.


1. Nalbandian, John, "Professionalism In Local Government, Jossey-Bass, 1991.

2. Protasel, Greg J., "Leadershiip in Council-Manager Cities, The Institutional Implications".

3. Morgan & Watson, "Policy Leadership in Council-Manager Cities: Comparing Mayor and Manager" in Ideal and Practice in Council-Manager Government, 2nd edition, H.G. Frederickson (ed), ICMA, 1995.

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