Career Spotlight: City Manager

What Does a City Manager Do and Is It the Right Career for You?

Behind the scenes of every city, there’s a dedicated individual working diligently to oversee the day-to-day operations, manage resources, and ensure that essential services are efficiently delivered to the community. This unsung hero is the city manager, a vital employee in local government.

If you like public administration and helping your community, a career as a city manager might be for you.

What Is a City Manager?

A city manager is a professional administrator hired by a local government, such as a city or town, to serve as the chief executive officer responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the city. They are typically appointed by elected officials to carry out the policies and directives set by the government.

What Does a City Manager Do?

While the specific duties may vary from one city to another, city managers generally have the following responsibilities:

  • Administration: They are responsible for the overall administration of the city government, ensuring that city departments and services operate efficiently.
  • Policy Implementation: City managers work to implement the policies and goals set by elected officials, translating these policies into actions and programs.
  • Budget Management: They develop and propose budgets, monitor spending, and ensure that funds are allocated effectively.
  • Personnel Management: They oversee the hiring, training, and management of city employees.
  • Infrastructure and Public Services: They oversee the maintenance and improvement of roads, utilities, parks, and public facilities, as well as ensure the delivery of essential services like water supply, waste management, and public safety.

  • Community Engagement: City managers engage with residents, community organizations, and businesses to address concerns and build partnerships.
  • Emergency Management: During times of crisis, city managers coordinate emergency response efforts to protect residents and city assets.

How to Become a City Manager

Becoming a city manager typically requires a combination of education, experience, and specific skills. Most city managers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree; most have a master’s degree in business administration, public administration, or a related field.

Many city managers start their careers in entry-level positions within city government or in roles at other government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or private companies. Internships, fellowships, or part-time positions can be valuable for building relevant experience.

Some city managers also pursue professional certification through organizations like the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). The ICMA offers the Credentialed Manager designation, which recognizes individuals who meet specific education and experience requirements and pass an assessment.

Education Needed to Become a City Manager

A bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum educational requirement for aspiring city managers. While the specific major can vary, many of these professionals have degrees in fields such as public administration, public policy, political science, business administration, or a related discipline. Many city managers hold a master’s degree, such as a Master of Public Administration (MPA) or a Master of Public Policy (MPP).

Excelsior University’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program prepares you for career advancement in all levels of government, or local and global service organizations. The MPA program will help you master both the personal and the business side of public administration with courses and assignments that show you how to harness information technology, respond to ethical issues, foster constructive collaboration, and more. You will also gain practical experience in honing your presentation skills, developing strategic plans and financial reports, and analyzing data to make better decisions. You will leave the program ready to achieve with a complete professional portfolio to present to prospective or current employers.

What Is the Difference Between a City Manager and a Mayor?

A city manager and mayor are two distinct roles in local government, each with specific responsibilities and functions. A mayor is an elected official who serves as the ceremonial head of the city or municipality. They often have a more public-facing role, representing the city at official events, interacting with the media, and advocating for the city’s interests. They may also have a role in shaping city policies and priorities through their influence on the city council.

A city manager is appointed by the city council or commissioners to serve as the chief executive officer of the city. They are responsible for the day-to-day administration of the city government, including overseeing city departments, managing the city’s budget, implementing policies set by the elected officials, and ensuring the efficient delivery of city services.

City managers help to hold a city together. Their dedication to administration, policy implementation, and community engagement is essential for the well-being and prosperity of the residents they serve. As cities continue to grow and evolve, the role of city managers will remain an integral component to making our communities thrive.