City Government

The City of Sheridan operates as a council-manager form of government.

The Council Manager Form of Government

The Council-Manager plan 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 plan establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected council as a whole and where the City Council hires a professionally trained manager to oversee the delivery of public services.

In Council-Manager government, council members are the leaders and policy makers in the community elected to represent various segments of the community and to concentrate on policy issues that are responsive to citizens' needs and wishes. The manager is appointed by the City Council to carry out policy and ensure that the entire community is being served. If the manager is not responsive to the council's wishes, the Council has authority to terminate the manager at any time. In that sense, a manager's responsiveness is tested daily.

The plan is used by counties too. Over 3,000 local governments operate under this plan. They vary greatly in size and characteristics, including independent cities, center cities, suburbs, and hundreds of counties. Over 100 million Americans live in communities governed by the council-manager plan.

The plan is an American concept. The first position legally defining, by ordinance, the broad authority and responsibility associated with today's local government manager was in Staunton, Virginia, in 1908. Sumter, South Carolina, was the first city to adopt a charter incorporating the basic principles of council-manager government in 1912. Westmount, Quebec, introduced the plan to Canada in 1913. The first large city to adopt the plan was Dayton, Ohio, in 1914. The first counties to adopt it in the 1930s were Arlington County, Virginia, and Durham County and Robeson County, North Carolina. The council-manager government has shown durability and flexibility in responding to the changing needs of citizens and their communities.

The Function of City Council

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, rather than the administrative details. It hires a professional manager to carry out the administrative responsibilities and supervises the manager's performance. A summary of the City Council's roles is attached.

The Manager's Function

The 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 recommended 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. Managers formed a professional association, ICMA, in 1914 to help share expertise and experiences in local government management to best serve their communities.

Local governments have found that overall costs have actually been reduced with competent management. Savings may be in the form of reduced operating costs, increased efficiency and productivity, improved revenue collection, or effective use of technology.

The manager makes policy recommendations to the council, but the council may or may not adopt them and may change or modify them. The manager is bound by whatever action the council takes.

The Mayor's Role

Mayors in council-manager communities are key political leaders and policy developers. Along with the council members, the mayor is responsible for soliciting citizen views in forming these policies and interpreting them to the public. The mayor presides at council meetings, facilitates communication and understanding between elected and appointed officials, assists the council in setting goals and in 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.

Citizen Participation Welcomed

Unlimited citizen participation is encouraged by whatever means the citizens decide to utilize, including joining citizen groups, serving on advisory boards and councils, attending council meetings, participating in hearings, or serving on the council. With political power concentrated in the council instead of in one elected official, more citizens have an opportunity to be elected to a position with significant influence over the future of their community.

Who Serves as City Manager?

Data compiled by ICMA indicates that 77 percent of those appointed to manager positions in recent years have come directly from other governmental positions, and 63 percent of the managers surveyed have a master's degree.

All managers belonging to ICMA are bound by its Code of Ethics, which states that every member of the Association shall refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body, and from all partisan political activities which would impair performance as a professional administrator.

The Code specifies 12 ethical principles of personal and professional conduct, including total dedication to the cause of good government. ICMA members believe in the effectiveness of representative democracy and the value of government services provided to all citizens in a community. They are committed to standards of honesty and integrity more vigorous than those required by the law.

Note: This information is provided by the ICMA, which since 1914 has been the professional organization for appointed chief management executives in local government. Its goals include strengthening the quality of urban government through professional management and development and disseminating new concepts and approaches to management through a wide range of information services, training programs, and publications.

Planning Commission

The City Council appoints the five members of the City Planning Commission.