It takes a team to run a city, town, or county government.
Local governments are composed of departments that focus on specific services and functions. These departments may include:
- Public Works (trash collection, street maintenance, water and sewer, storm preparation and clean-up)
- Finance (budget administration, taxes)
- Parks and Recreation (recreational facilities and programs)
- Information Technology
- Police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS)
- Planning (community development and growth)
- Human Resources (hiring city staff and handling personnel matters)
Hiring, supervising, coordinating
Sustained commitment to change in any community requires the full engagement, dedication, and leadership of the city, town, or county manager, backed up by department heads and their street-level staff, including planners, traffic engineers, inspectors, police officers, street crews, and others.
In most cases, the city, town, or county manager hires, supervises, and coordinates these key personnel.
- Little Rock, AR, City Manager Bruce Moore brought city departments together for a first-ever unified effort to make neighborhoods safer.
- Tyler, TX, has maintained a low ratio of staff to residents, even as its population has grown by 30 percent. City Manager Mark McDaniel has kept morale high and service delivery on target by investing in city employees through continuing education and open communications.
- When a derecho left Kanawha County, WV, and its residents without power, trapping some in their homes, County Manager Jennifer Sayre tirelessly led the storm recovery effort for 11 long days.
- Anticipating a brain drain when baby boomer employees began to retire, Casper, WY, City Manager Thomas Forslund made cultivating the city’s next generation of leaders a priority.
Creating a culture of ethics
One of a professional manager’s most important responsibilities is creating an organizational culture based on the highest standards of ethical conduct.
Professional managers ensure that their staffs integrate four central principles into everything they do:
- equity: distributing services fairly to all residents of a community
- transparency: opening all government transactions to public scrutiny
- stewardship: using all public resources for the greater good of the community
- honor and integrity: providing residents with a government they can trust through their actions and the actions of their staffs
Montpelier, VT, City Manager William Fraser is a good example of how a professional manager makes ethics and public service a top priority.
Read ICMA’s (International City/County Management Association) Code of Ethics to learn more.