City Manager Job Description
A City Manager oversees the administrative tasks that allow a city to operate. Working closely with various city departments and city officials, City Managers manage policies, create new public programs, maintain the city budget and advise the city council.
The City Manager is essentially the chief executive of the city government, supervising the city’s employees and bureaucracy, while implementing and overseeing policies set by a city’s mayor and city council.
City Manager Duties and Responsibilities
Variations on how local governments are set up may influence the responsibilities of a City Manager, however, there are several core tasks common to all City Manager positions. A review of current job listings identified the following core responsibilities.
Working with the mayor and other city officials, City Managers ensure a municipality operates within its budget. They monitor city expenditures and provide budget reports detailing the city’s fiscal status. City Managers also advise the mayor or city council about budgetary issues, such as unanticipated fluctuations in tax revenue or other funding sources
City Managers may be responsible for approving the hiring and firing of city employees in particular departments. They may also oversee staff and monitor day-to-day productivity. Often, however, direct oversight of city employees is delegated to department heads, who report to the City Manager.
Interact with the Public
Whether presenting ideas in a public meeting or advising a committee, the City Manager is called upon to work with the public on a regular basis. The City Manager must be able to listen to and inform the public about the city’s policies and procedures, and receive feedback. Many City Managers will respond directly to citizen’s emails and phone calls on a daily basis.
City Manager Skills
City Managers must have a passion for local government and serving people. The ability to multitask and make confident decisions also are key City Manager qualities. In addition to these traits, employers look for applicants with the following skillsets.
Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want City Managers with these core skills. If you want to work as a City Manager, focus on the following.
- Managing complex budgets
- Understanding how city governments work, including city and state codes
- Explaining complex issues to city government and and the public
- Negotiating contracts and agreements with personnel, vendors and other jurisdictions
Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your City Manager toolbox and broaden your career options.
- Managing complex organizations that include several departments
- Advanced legal and budget knowledge
City Manager Q & A
Being a City Manager is both rewarding and challenging, says Mark Deven, who holds that post in Arvada, Colo. While the job is certainly similar to being a CEO of a business, a City Manager serves a diverse group of stakeholders, from residents to city employees, and must be sensitive to the needs and desires of each. We talked to Deven about what being a City Manager is all about. Here’s what he told us.
What’s the most rewarding part about being a City Manager?
Becoming part of a city and organization that makes an impact everyday in nearly all aspects of community life. In addition, working with caring, passionate and competent people who are dedicated to service, including colleagues, elected officials and the people who live and work in the community.
What is the biggest challenge faced by City Managers?
Finding the resources and capacity to meet the ever-growing and more diverse challenges associated with managing a complex organization and governing a community. In addition, civic discourse has become more uncivil and state and federal levels of government are dysfunctional and of little or no help to local government.
What skills do you use every day?
Leadership skills, written and verbal communication skills and analytical skills are consistently used everyday.
Who succeeds in this job?
A person who is successful at managing relationships among and between a diverse set of stakeholders such as elected officials, community members, colleagues and other government officials.
How should someone prepare for a career as a City Manager?
Focus on a career path, such as finance, engineering or law enforcement, that has a practical application to local government and learn the principles that will prepare a person to lead a complex and diverse organization. Also, understand how to manage relationships.
Are there any misconceptions people have about being a City Manager?
Being a city manager is not a typical CEO type job. To be successful, a City Manager needs to get his or her hands dirty, roll up their sleeves and mix it up with diverse community members, elected officials with differing views and colleagues ranging from police officers to planners. In order to demonstrate understanding of these diverse functions, a city manager needs to display sincere interest, become sensitive to the needs of these different disciplines and understand the role each discipline plays in the success of a community. This is a 24/7/365 commitment.
City Manager Resources
There are more helpful and informational resources available on the Web for those interested in becoming City Managers. We scoured the internet and found these links full of learning opportunities and the latest industry news.
On the Web
Scott Neal’s Blog – The city of Edina, Minnesota’s City Manager, Scott Neal maintains a blog that provides insight into the activities and policies his office is responsible for.
Kingsport Blog – The city of Kingsport, Tenn., has a blog maintained by City Manager Jeff Fleming detailing the local news in government and politics.
@leefeldman – Follow Lee Feldman, the city manager of Fort Lauderdale, Florida as he tweets about events and projects his city is hosting and creating.
@KCMOManager – Troy Schulte, City Manager for Kansas City, Mo., posts daily about the going-ons in his town. See the type of tasks he undertakes as City Manager.
@kepinkos – Follow Karen Pinkos, the Assistant City Manager of El Cerrito, Calif., as she posts about local government issues.
City Manager Books
City Management: Keys to Success – This informative text goes into great detail about the job of a City Manager. From what one should do to become a city manager, to what sort of responsibilities City Managers can expect day to day, this book is a great read for those interested in city management.
The New City Manager – This book recounts Mr. Stephani’s experience as a new city manager who discovers ethical issues and corruption in his local government and the steps he took to rectify these issues.
International City/County Management Association – ICMA provides publications, research, data, and professional development to city, town and county leaders throughout the world. Founded in 1914, ICMA strives to improve communities by fostering professional management skills.
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