Since 1912 when Sumter, South Carolina, became the first community to adopt council-manager government and ran the first advertisement for a city manager, this form has become the most popular system of local government for communities with populations of 5,000 or over. In 1935 the International City Managers Association (now the International City/County Management Association) recognized 418 U.S. cities and 7 counties as operating under the council-manager form. By 1985 the number of council-manager communities had grown to 2,548 cities and 86 counties in the United States. Today more than 3,056 U.S. cities and 144 counties operate under this system of local government.
The council-manager form continues to gain popularity. During the past 12 years, an average of forty-four U.S. cities annually have adopted the council-manager form, while only an average of two have abandoned it.
Functioning much like a business organization's chief executive, the appointed professional manager administers the daily operations of the community. Through a professional staff, the manager ensures the provision of services and enforces the policies adopted by the elected council. The manager is selected by the council on the basis of education, training, and experience. Qualifications and performance, not political savvy, are the characteristics that make an appointed manager attractive to a council.
Appointed local government managers have no guaranteed term of office or tenure. They can be dismissed by the council at any time, for any reason. As a result, they constantly must respond to citizens and be dedicated to the highest ideals of honesty, integrity, and excellence in the management and delivery of public services. In short, appointed managers are charged with providing government "for the people."
Professional Code of Ethics
Because caring for and tendering the public trust is of critical importance, professional managers are bound by a code of ethics that guides their actions on a daily basis. These ethical standards are listed below:
- Be dedicated to the concepts of effective and democratic local government by responsible elected officials and believe that professional general management is essential to the achievement of this objective.
- Affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by government and maintain a constructive, creative, and practical attitude toward local government affairs and a deep sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant.
- Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the respect and confidence of the elected officials, other officials, employees and the public.
- Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best interests of all the people.
- Submit policy proposals to elected officials; provide them with facts and advice on matters of policy as a basis for making decisions and setting community goals; and uphold and implement local government policies adopted by elected officials.
- Recognize that elected representatives of the people are entitled to the credit for establishment of local government policies; responsibility for policy execution rests with the members.
- Refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional administrators. Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body.
- Make it a duty continually to improve the member's professional ability and to develop the competence of associates in the use of management techniques.
- Keep the community informed on local government affairs; encourage communication between the citizens and all local government officers; emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public; and seek to improve the quality and image of public service.
- Resist any encroachment on professional responsibilities, believing the member should be free to carry out official policies without interference, and handle each problem without discrimination on the basis of principle and justice.
- Handle all matters of personnel on the basis of merit so that fairness and impartiality govern a member's decisions, pertaining to appointments, pay adjustments, promotions, and discipline.
- Public office is a public trust. A member shall not leverage his or her position for personal gain or benefit.