Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the council manager form of local government?

A. Under the council–manager form of government the council is responsible for the legislative function such as establishing policy, passing local ordinances, voting appropriations, and developing an overall vision.  It then appoints a professional manager to oversee the administrative operations of the county, implement the council’s policies, and advise it. The position of “mayor” in this type of arrangement body is a largely ceremonial, and may be selected by the council from among its members or elected as an at-large council member with no executive functions.

The video below was created for the City of Nogales, Arizona and it offers an excellent general overview of how a Council Manager form of local government works.

Q. When did Council-Manager government come into being? Is it common?

A. It began in the early 1900 on the east cost and it has grown to become the most prevalent form of city and county government in America.

Q. What are the key benefits of Council-Manager government?

A. There are many:

  • Professional management of operations
  • Less political influence in local government
  • Greater transparency
  • Greater accountability
  • Management is a skill and a science - MBA and MPA degrees
  • Political skills needed to get elected are very different from those needed to manage a complex organization: times have changed; Maui now has an annual budget exceeding $700 million and employs 2,700 people
  • Directors appointed who meet professional criteria
  • Takes money out of chief executive role: $900,000 raised by mayor 2010-‘14
  • Decision-making based on law and policy, not politics
  • Management by goals and objectives
  • Hiring and firing of manager based on performance
  • No accountability of a mayor in second term; little in first
  • Name-calling eliminated
  • Reduced friction between legislative and executive branches of government
  • Elimination of mass turnover upon each new mayoral administration - costly, inefficient, and unnecessary
  • Improved efficiency - IBM study found Council-Manager government 10% more efficient than the strong mayor model

Q. How can we change to a professional management model?

A. A charter change is needed and hopefully will be on the November 2016 ballot.

Q. What steps are being taken?

A. A special study committee will be formed to examine C-M government and report back to the council and the Cost of Government Commission is examining potential efficiencies.