Long-Serving City Managers: Practical Application of the Academic Literature
Less than five percent of city managers have managed to stay in office for at least twenty years. This is a tremendous achievement as not many managers can hope to achieve such a long tenure in office. For a manager to achieve such a long tenure, several factors are considered. The political environment of a city manager is an important factor. This is because a city manager essentially works amidst politicians and politics. As a city manager, one is assigned administrative responsibilities, but he manager has to operate in a political context that makes it necessary for him to work closely with the politicians and advise them on policy matters. This relationship is necessary for success. This close relation in with politics also enables a manager to get involved in the policy process of a city; an involvement in policy ensures that the city manager takes part in ensuring that they understand the policies being formulated.
A long serving manager had values and unwavering commitment to public service. One of the most fundamental values is efficiency. An efficient manager ensures that they enforce a policy that promotes individual rights, social equity and effective representation. It is also crucial for the manager to maintain a working relationship with the elected officials. These are the mayor and the council representatives. It is crucial to build a considerable level of trust between the manager and the elected officials to allow for a cohesive governing unit. The cooperation between the top governing official brings in another factor, personal satisfaction. The long serving managers stay on to manage these cities for long tenures since the professional relationships make it possible for them to enjoy their work, and contribute to overall job satisfaction. Most of the managers were also satisfied with the career growth potential of the cities they were. They recognized that their communities were growing, and the job would finally be similar to what they were looking for in bigger cities.
Family considerations among the city managers play a crucial role in the decisions made with regard to their career path. These long serving managers believe that their families should be geographically grounded to make it easy for them. Therefore, most of them chose to stay with the cities they manage and the years accrued as they continued to serve. Closely related to family, the manager is assigned the duty of coming up with an effective team. In the end, the managers develop a strong bond with city employees who factor in the decisions made about moving elsewhere.
City Managers’ Policy Leadership in Council-Manager Cities
The dichotomy model of city management suggests that the elected representatives create policy and the appointed leadership carries out these policies. Studies have been carried out to identify the limit appointed officials engage the policy process. City managers are considered to be at the helm of the policy process. However, this influence is not seen across the board. Some city managers play a crucial role in policy development, and others have little influence. It is increasingly evident that managers are increasingly getting involved in policy making putting into question the dichotomy model of city leadership.
Alternative models to the dichotomy model have developed to suggest that the politics-administration relationship has been misconstrued and suggest that this relationship is more of a complementary relationship. A concordance between the council and the manager make it possible for the city to run more smoothly than there is discordance. Politicians and city administration work hand in hand to develop effective policies. The legitimacy of the manager’s role in policymaking is derived from the fact that the elected officials need the expertise of the managerial class to ensure policy is well implemented. This expertise gives them legitimacy and the opportunity to offer input into the policies being developed for the city.
Political leadership in renewed city governments has been said to be a week. This is because mayors lack the authority to affect policy change. It has therefore, been established that the city manager takes over policy roles when the mayor does not have formal authority, or when the mayor finds it difficult to exert their policy role. A manager’s professionalism may also be a crucial factor for the politicians to allow policy role to shift to the manager. The managers are likely to make government highly efficient as opposed to the elected officials. The manager’s administrative authority allows him to control the politics, administration and policy.
Conflict and Cooperation in Municipalities
High levels of conflict or low cooperation levels in a city council may be a major impediment to decision making. To determine the level of conflict or cooperation, one has to look at a city’s population and determine the number of people being elected into political office. The results suggest that form of government and the number of elected officials significantly affect local governments. Conflict is part of politics and administration, but if left unchecked, the conflict may cause dysfunction.
Local governments in America can have various forms but the most common forms include mayor-council and council-manger forms. In council-manager form, the powers of the legislature and the executive are enshrined in the council. The mayor in this case is considered a member of the council. The mayor-council governments, there is a separation of powers where the elected council is the legislature and the mayor are the executive arm. In this case, the mayor appoints a chief administrative officer to take charge of the daily operations of the city. In both cases, a balance of power should be established to minimize conflict. To reduce conflict, local government forms have attempted to create hybrid form from the two main forms to enhance cooperation. Seven variations have arisen, and the question is if these variations help in any way to reduce conflict and enhance cooperation.
Conflict refers to disagreement among group members to the level of negative interaction. Conversely, cooperation is fosters good interaction between people. Cooperation in local government means that the elected officials and administrative officials have common goals for the city. When there is positive interaction, then the quality of decisions made in policy and administration are high and effective. It is suggested that lower low level of cooperation and high conflict levels can be attributed to greater population size, high minority population, larger councils, and low education levels for residents, partisan elections and more district seats for council members.
It is hypothesized that council-manager councils have better levels of cooperation than mayor-council municipalities. It is also believed that municipalities with a lower number of representatives in the council will report higher levels of cooperation. In addition, if the median household income in a municipality increases and the fiscal health improves, there is likely to be more cooperation municipalities. However, it is also suggested that municipalities with nonpartisan elections have a better record of cooperation than municipalities employing partisan elections. When population increases, the level of cooperation decreases, and conflict will take root. This is also true when diversity in population increases.