Good Governance and the Necessity of a Strong Council and a Strong Manager
Mike Conduff, along with Jim Hunt, will deliver a NLC University Seminar for community leaders titled "Building Strong Elected-Appointed Official Relationships (ICMA)” at the upcoming Congress of Cities and Exposition on Wednesday, November 19th from 1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. in Austin, TX.
It can be said that the most important relationship in local governments is the one between a community’s elected representatives and their chief appointed official. When this relationship is based on mutual respect, sound communication and competence, positive outcomes for the overall community can be achieved. Jim Hunt, a former 28-year elected official and past President of the National League of Cities, highlights the importance of this relationship, stating:
“Citizens deserve the best local government possible. It has been clearly shown that when the mayor and council and city manager are focused on the same issues and are working toward the same ends, communities and their citizens definitely benefit.”
In the governance process, it is critical for all parties involved to understand their unique roles. Elected officials are principally responsible for connecting with citizens and translating citizen requests into appropriate outcomes and targets for the entire community.
They must also establish accomplishment time frames and allocate the necessary resources properly. The professional staff, such as the city manager or administrator, must translate these outcomes and develop organizational action plans to accomplish them within the time frame and budget. Overall, elected officials establish the “what” so city administrators can develop the “how.”
In municipal governance, the elected officials are the ones that get to define the future direction of the community–what quality of life is desired in the town 5, 10 or 15 years down the road and what resources are necessary to achieve that. The city manager decides the course of accomplishment and the best means to achieve the desired result.
Unfortunately, too often the critical council tasks of visioning and planning are not executed properly, or done at all. This is more often the case when the relationship between elected and appointed officials has not been well forged. It takes both strong elected leadership and equally strong professional management to operate effectively in the appropriate spheres.
As Jim points out, “While the challenges of developing and nurturing an outstanding relationship between the governance parties are many, the communities, elected officials and city managers that do it well are truly fulfilling their commitments to their citizens.”
Mike Conduff is the President and CEO of the Elim Group, a Leadership and Governance Consulting firm based in Denton, Texas. He serves as the National Liaison for Governance for ICMA, is a best-selling author of several books, a fellow in the National Academy of Public Administration and is a noted governance expert and council facilitator.