Council-Manager Form of City Government

By: Terrell Blodgett

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: July 1, 1995

The newest of the three major forms of city government, the council-manager form quickly gained acceptance among cities of all sizes and continued in 1994 to be the most popular form in American cities of more than 10,000 population. In Texas this form is even more dominant: 251 of the 290 home-rule cities in Texas operate with a city council as a policy body and a city manager as the chief executive-administrative officer of city government. The plan's original features included a mayor elected from among the city council members after all of them assumed office. The council was nearly always elected at large, received no pay, and spent little time at city hall. Today, in most council-manager cities, mayors are elected at large. Other council members may be elected at large, at large by place, or by district. In larger cities they spend a considerable amount of time on their city duties. The plan continues to be adopted yearly by a number of cities and dropped by few. Amarillo, the first city in Texas to adopt the council-manager form of government, abandoned its commission government for the new plan in 1913. In 1914 Taylor and Denton adopted the council-manager plan. By 1947 there were fifty-eight council-manager cities in Texas. Austin is the largest city in Texas that elects its city council at large by place. Austin also pays its mayor and council members a great deal more than, for instance, Dallas. The norm for Texas cities is token pay, consistent with the original concept of the council-manager plan, which placed policy responsibility in a part-time elected body, and management of the city's business in a professional city manager. Today, most city managers have graduate degrees in public or business administration and may be paid as much as $150,000 a year. The salary is partially in recognition of the stress under which managers operate, particularly in large cities. Managers serve at the pleasure of their city councils and sometimes must bear the brunt of attacks that sometimes should be levied against the governing body. Because of this, contracts and severance agreements are becoming more prevalent. Under these, if a manager is involuntarily dismissed, he receives a specified amount of termination pay.

Terrell Blodgett, Texas Home Rule Charters (Austin: Texas Municipal League, 1994). The Municipal Year Book, 1993 (Washington: International City-County Management Association, 1993). Matthew Murguia, Councilmember Remuneration in Texas Council-Manager Cities (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1984). James H. Svara, Official Leadership in the City: Patterns of Conflict and Cooperation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Terrell Blodgett, “Council-Manager Form of City Government,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995