City of Upper Arlington, Ohio

Council/Manager Form of Government

The Council/Manager form of government is a system of representative democracy that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials with the strong managerial experience of an appointed manager. In this form of government, citizens vote to elect a City Council and that council then hires a professional city manager to run the city's day to day operations and implement any changes in policy that the council passes. Elected officials and appointed managers must reach out to citizens via community surveys and interaction with residents across the community to ensure that all enacted policies represent the betterment of the community as a whole. Citizen involvement is often widespread in communities that have adopted this form of government through processes such as visioning and community-oriented local services.

Major Features of Council/Manager Form of Government

City Council

  • Functions as a parliamentary system whereby all power is concentrated within the elected Council with a principal elected official, usually the Mayor, assuming a symbolic, coordinating and activist leadership role.
  • Members of City Council do not perform this function on a full time basis and typically receive little or no compensation for what is considered volunteer service to the community.
  • The number of members on a City Council can range from six to 13 members, depending on the size of the community.
  • Often, some or all members of City Council are elected to represent specific areas - known as wards or districts - within a community.
  • The Mayor is still perceived as the most visible leader for a community under this form of government.
  • The Mayor fulfills two vital functions: Consensus building among members of Council and their representatives and in guiding the development and implementation of policies.

City Manager

  • The appointed professional manager functions like a business organization's chief executive - administering the daily operations for the City under the guidance of City Council.
  • The City Manager has a professional staff that, under his/her guidance, provides the services and implements the policies adopted by the elected Council.
  • This appointee is responsible for preparing the community's budget, directing day-to-day operations, hiring and firing personnel, and provides complete and objective information to Council on issues as they arise.
  • The City Manager is selected by the City Council based on his/her education, training and relevant managerial experience.
  • City Managers serve at the pleasure of the City Council, must respond to citizens, and are dedicated to the highest ideals of honesty and integrity.


  • Evolving from the turn of the 20th Century progressive reform movement, the Council/Manager form of government is one of the few original American contributions to political theory. The first large city to adopt it was Dayton, Ohio in 1914.
  • More than 75.5 million individuals live in communities that operate under the City Council/Manager form of government.
  • On average, 63 communities per year have adopted this form of government over the last 16 years.
  • The Council/Manager form of government is now the most popular system for communities with populations of 5,000 or more.
  • A significant benefit that often arises from this form of government is a reduction in overall costs for running a community through increased efficiency and improved revenue collection.


The International City/County Management Association, known as ICMA, assists appointed managers and administrators in the provision of quality public services.

  • ICMA has a Code of Ethics, providing its members with professional standards that exceed those required by law.
  • The Code of Ethics is enforced by a peer-review-process to monitor and investigate complaints, making recommendations on action to be taken for violations.

Source: ICMA website,

lwrLife, Well Run

Life, Well Run is a program designed by ICMA (see below) to raise awareness of and appreciation for the value that professional government managers bring to building ethical, effective, and efficient local government in more than 73 percent of cities, towns, and counties across America with a population of 2,500 or more. Whether it is a decision between bike lanes or parking lanes, green space or garage space, a courthouse or community center, professional local government managers, are the people behind these decisions, turning policy into action and visionary ideas into tangible results. Professional managers help make good communities great, giving us a place we’re proud to call home. To learn more, visit

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News & Notices

  • UA Insight - May/June 2018
    Look for your latest copy of our UA Insight newsletter. In this issue we feature a summary of the Parks plan findings, Centennial updates and details on the community's new Neighborhood Bridges Program.
  • 2017 Community Survey
    The 2017 Community Survey process is complete and the report can be viewed here. Our thanks to all who participated.
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Useful Links

City Council
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