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The Commission-Manager Form of Government
 

The Cooper City Commission selects a city manager who serves as the chief administrative and executive director of the city.  The city manager is selected solely on the basis of administrative and executive qualifications. The City Manager's duties are defined in the City Charter and a portion of the City Code.

The form of government used in the City of Cooper City, pursuant to its Charter, is a Commission-Manager form of government.  Under this form of government, the City Commission is the legislative branch of the government and the City Manager is the executive branch of the government. The City Commission enacts Ordinances, the laws of the City, adopts Resolutions authorizing actions on behalf of the City, reviews plans for development, and establishes the policies by which the City is governed. The City Manager is the Chief Executive Officer of the City, overseeing the day-to-day operations, administering the City's service providers, preparing long range plans, and implementing the policies established by the City Commission.

The commission-manager plan is the system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials in the form of a commission or other governing body, with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The plan establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected commission as a whole and where the commission hires a professionally trained manager to oversee the delivery of public services. 

The basic concept of the Commission-Manager Plan is the unification of powers through a Commission elected at large, and a concentration of administrative authority by the appointment of a Manager. The principle of Commission-Manager government is that policy and administration are separate functions. Policy is determined by the elected representatives of the people. That policy, as adopted by the Commission, is then administered by a professional City Manager. The Manager administers the affairs of the City through the various operating departments.

In commission-manager government, commission members are the leaders and policy makers in the community elected to represent various segments of the community and to concentrate on policy issues that are responsive to citizens' needs and wishes. The manager is appointed by commission to carry out policy and ensure that the entire community is being served. If the manager is not responsive to the commission's wishes, the commission has authority to terminate the manager at any time. In that sense, a manager's responsiveness is tested daily.

The plan is used by counties too. Over 3,000 local governments operate under this plan. They vary greatly in size and characteristics, including independent cities, center cities, suburbs, and hundreds of counties. In fact, many counties adopt some kind of professional management structure each year, becoming the fastest growth area for some form of commission-manager government. Over 100 million Americans live in communities governed by the commission-manager plan.

The plan is an American concept. The first position legally defining, by ordinance, the broad authority and responsibility associated with today's local government manager was in Staunton, Virginia, in 1908. Sumter, South Carolina, was the first city to adopt a charter incorporating the basic principles of commission-manager government in 1912. Westmount, Quebec, introduced the plan to Canada in 1913. The first large city to adopt the plan was Dayton, Ohio, in 1914. The first counties to adopt it in the 1930s were Arlington County, Virginia, and Durham County and Robeson County, North Carolina.

Since its establishment, it has become the most popular form of government in the United States in communities of 25,000 or more population. It is popular for local governments in such countries as Canada, Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and West Germany. For more than 80 years, commission-manager government has shown durability and flexibility in responding to the changing needs of citizens and their communities.

The Function of City Commission

The commission is the legislative body; its members are the community's decision makers. Power is centralized in the elected commission, which approves the budget and determines the tax rate, for example.  The commission also focuses on the community's goals, major projects, and such long-term considerations as community growth, land use development, capital improvement plans, capital financing and strategic planning, rather than the administrative details. It hires a professional manager to carry out the administrative responsibilities and supervises the manager's performance.

The City Commission hires the City Attorney, City Clerk and City Manager who then hires all subordinate employees.

The City Commission is comprised of five members, being the Mayor and four Commissioners.

The Manager's Function

The manager is hired to serve the commission and the community and to bring to the local government the benefits of training and experience in administering local government projects and programs on behalf of the governing body. The manager prepares a recommended budget for the commission's consideration; recruits, hires, and supervises the government's staff; serves as the commission's chief adviser; and carries out the commission's policies. Commission members and citizens count on the manager to provide complete and objective information, pros and cons of alternatives, and long-term consequences. Managers formed a professional association, ICMA, in 1914 to help share expertise and experiences in local government management to best serve their communities.

Local governments have found that overall costs have actually been reduced with competent management. Savings may be in the form of reduced operating costs, increased efficiency and productivity, improved revenue collection, or effective use of technology.

The manager makes policy recommendations to the commission, but the commission may or may not adopt them and may change or modify them. The manager is bound by whatever action the commission takes.

The Mayor's Role

Mayors in commission-manager communities (or chairpersons in counties) are political liaisons and work with the full commission as a group of policy developers. Along with the commission members, the mayor is responsible for responding to citizen views in forming these policies and interpreting them to the public at public meetings. The mayor only presides at commission meetings, facilitates communication and understanding between elected and appointed officials, assists the commission in setting goals and in advocating policy decisions, and serves as a promoter of the community. He or she has no more authority or political power than the other members of the commission and has only an equal vote. In addition, the mayor serves as a key representative in intergovernmental relations. The mayor, commission, and manager constitute a policy-development and management team.

The Mayor is the ceremonial leader of the City, the presiding officer at Commission Meetings and is a voting member of the Commission, with his/her vote having no more or less weight than that of any other member of the Commission.  While the leading political figure of the City, the Mayor does not bear the responsibility nor has the authority of directing the day-to-day municipal activities. 

 

The Mayor executes all Ordinance, Resolutions and issues Proclamations on behalf of the City, with approval of a majority vote of the Commission, and represents the City to other public and private entities.  The position of Mayor is considered to be "part-time", and not an employee of the City.  The Mayor is elected at large to a four-year term, and may reside in any area of the City.

 

City Commissioners each have the same authority and ability to bring matters to, and to discuss and vote on matters before the Commission.  The position of Commissioner is considered to be "part-time", and not an employee of the City.

 

For election purposes, the City is divide into four areas or districts.  The City Charter requires that two (2) Commissioners reside in the district 1 & 2 area, and two (2) Commissioners reside in the district 3 & 4 area, and  the Mayor is elected without regard to residence in any particular area.

Citizen Participation Welcomed

Unlimited citizen participation is encouraged by whatever means the citizens decide to utilize, including joining citizen groups, serving on advisory boards and commissions, attending commission meetings, participating in hearings, or serving on the commission. With political power concentrated in the commission instead of in one elected official, more citizens have an opportunity to be elected to a position with significant influence over the future of their community.

Who Serves as City Manager?

Data compiled indicates that 77 percent of those appointed to manager positions in recent years have come directly from other governmental positions, and 63 percent of the managers surveyed have a master's degree.

All managers are bound by a Code of Ethics, which states that every manager shall refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body, and from all partisan political activities which would impair performance as a professional administrator.

The Code of Ethics specifies 12 ethical principles of personal and professional conduct, including total dedication to the cause of good government. Commission members believe in the effectiveness of representative democracy and the value of government services provided to all citizens in a community. They are committed to standards of honesty and integrity more vigorous than those required by the law. 

The commission's goals must include strengthening the quality of urban government through professional management and development and disseminating new concepts and approaches to management through a wide range of information services, training programs, and publications. 

Political advertisement paid for and approved by John Sims, Nonpartisan, for Cooper City Commissioner, District 1