Mayors and City Managers What Is the Difference


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In most cases, the head of municipal governments is either the mayor or the city manager. Whenever a city or town has to deal with daily operations, these leaders, in any instance, collaborate with a municipal council to get the job done.

The Mayor Is Responsible For These 5 Things

A city or town is led by its mayor, who serves as the main executive officer of the municipality. An elected mayor sits atop the chain of command in the municipal administration of most of the largest cities in the United States. The following are examples of mayoral responsibilities. However, the list is not exhaustive:

The exercise of political leadership

A municipal government's most visible representative in the community is its mayor. They make their statements to the general public as well as the media. They are also held accountable for the actions of municipal officials, even those who do not report to them directly. This responsibility extends to all local authorities.

Formulation of policies

The mayor of a city is responsible for directing the city's overall public policies. Consultation with the general public and other government members is necessary before making policy choices.

Through collaboration with the city council

The mayor and the city council work together as co-rulers in a government structured according to the mayor-council model. In certain cities, such as Phoenix, the mayor also serves as the city council's chief executive. Together with the other municipal council members, they participate in council sessions and vote on legislation. In particular cities, such as Los Angeles, the mayor does not serve on the council, although they still have the power to propose legislation. In this scenario, the mayor has the authority to either approve or reject the council has approved measures.

Principal municipal departments:

Mayors and legislative bodies can write laws and establish policies, but it takes a bureaucracy to implement those policies. To guarantee that the choices made regarding policy are followed, the mayor may have oversight over agencies such as the public schools and the police.

Job appointment:

The mayor of a city with a strong-mayor system, such as New York and Chicago, can appoint and dismiss city commissioners and administrators. Other cities with a strong-mayor system include Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. The mayor of Dallas can't make personnel changes of this kind because Dallas has a system known as weak mayor, which gives the mayor very little power over policies.

It is more common for a municipal manager to be in charge of selecting new staff and firing current ones.

What responsibilities does a City Manager have?

In a municipal government structured along council-manager lines, the main administrative office of the municipality is known as the city manager. Unlike the mayor, the city manager post may require a full-time commitment.

Implementing the rules and regulations into practice:

Even if elected people like city councilors and a mayor could be the ones to enact legislation, it is the responsibility of the city manager to put such laws into effect.

Monitoring the day-to-day activities of a municipality:

Public safety, fire protection, public works, and educational institutions are just a few of the organizations and departments that are often present in a normal city. The city manager is responsible for ensuring that all these departments operate effectively under a council-manager form of government.


A city manager may be responsible for managing the budget, expenditures, and disbursements, just as is the case with any other professional manager.

Participating in municipal council work

Although the city manager does not have a vote on issues brought before the City Council, they attend such sessions and often take on the moderator role. Additionally, managers exist on the county level, and when this is the case, they collaborate with an organization for county management.

The council-manager system of government is prevalent in the West and Southwest regions of the United States. Several notable cities, like San Antonio and Las Vegas, have adopted this method.

3 Main Distinctions Between the Roles of Mayor and City Manager

Both mayors and city managers are at the head of their respective municipal administrations, but there are significant distinctions between them.

On the other hand, Mayors are not elected, although city managers are. The terms of office for mayors are normally two or four years, depending on the size of the city. City managers are often long-term employees of the city who report to a legislative body responsible for hiring and firing them.

Training for city managers is often of a more specialized kind. A Master of Public Administration (MPA), a graduate-level degree specifically designed for managing major public institutions, is a degree many city administrators hold. Even though mayors may have an MPA, they are mostly elected primarily on their political savvy.

The mayor of a city often makes less money than the city manager. The administrative skills of city managers are highly sought after in smaller communities, which is one reason for the often large wages that city managers command. On the other hand, mayors typically earn incomes that are lower on average.