Whether organized under state statutes or a home rule charter, the city council has to make important decisions about how it distributes responsibilities to a variety of offices. The challenge is achieving the appropriate balance between elected leadership and professional city management.
Minnesota cities have one of three types of city clerks: elected, appointed, or home rule charter clerks. Each type of city clerk has different responsibilities. The clerk is a central figure in any city government and has a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. The clerk executes many of the city’s governmental functions and supervises the daily administration of city business.
As a city’s operations grow more complex, it becomes unrealistic for the elected body to personally oversee day-to-day operations. In a move toward delegating some of these day-to-day functions, many city councils have chosen to create the position of city administrator. Since state statutes do not specifically provide for a city administrator, or define the powers of the position, duties can vary greatly from city to city.
Cities with a city manager have what is called a council-manager form of government. In the council-manager form, the council exercises the legislative power of the city and determines all matters of policy, similar to a board of directors in a private sector company. The city manager formulates policy recommendations to the city council, exercises the administrative power of the city, and is ultimately responsible to the council for the proper administration of all city affairs, much as a CEO would in a private sector company.