Managing Local Government: An Essential Guide for Municipal and County Managers offers a practical introduction to the changing structure, forms, and functions of local governments. Taking a metropolitan management perspective, authors Kimberly Nelson and Carl W. Stenberg explain U.S. local government within historical context and provide strategies for effective local government management and problem solving. Real-life scenarios and contemporary issues illustrate the organization and networks of local governments; the roles, responsibilities, and relationships of city and county managers; and the dynamics of the intergovernmental system. Case studies and discussion questions in each chapter encourage critical analysis of the challenges of collaborative governance. Unlike other books on the market, this text’s combined approach of theory and practice encourages students to enter municipal and county management careers and equips them with tools to be successful from day one.

Roles and Relationships

Roles and Relationships

City managers everywhere have a preference for strong and capable political leadership.

—Richard Clay Wilson, Jr. (2016, p. 86)

Most American local governments operate under the mayor–council or the council–manager form of government.1 The former is generally found in the largest and smallest jurisdictions, while the latter is popular in medium-sized and suburban communities. This chapter will look at the roles of elected officials and their relationships with managers chiefly through the lens of the council–manager and mayor–council forms of government.2

Mayoral Authority and Roles

Council–Manager Mayors

The mayor’s powers under the council–manager plan are quite limited, as the plan is based on the unitary principle of all powers vested in the governing body. This form of government is often equated with the American ...

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