City Government 101

There has been come confusion of late regarding the type of government the City of Cameron operates under. As a city of the third-class, meaning we have more than 3,000 people, Cameron has four government structures to choose from under Missouri law. In 1949, we chose the council-manager form of government. Under the council-manager form, there is a differentiation between the policymaking function of government and the administrative function. The voters elect the city council. There are five sitting councilmembers. We elect new members in a three-year cycle: two members are voted in one year, two members voted in the second year, and one member voted in the third year. This cycle ensures there are always experienced members on council while keeping a current representation of the voting community. City Council appoints a mayor from one of its five members. The mayor presides over council meetings and serves as the city’s ceremonial leader but has no administrative or veto power. City Council formulates municipal policy and appoints a City Manager. The City Manager is responsible to the council for the administration of the city government.


The Council-Manager form of municipal government typically has these characteristics:

     1) A small city council is elected at-large.

     2) All legislative and policy-making functions are in the city council.

     3) The city council employs a professionally trained city manager whom is subject to dismissal by the council at any time.

     4) The city manager is responsible for administration and has the power to appointment and/or remove administrative personnel subject to specified regulations.

     5) The city manager is responsible for the preparation and presentation of the budget to the council.


The Council-Manager form of municipal government provides clear lines of authority and responsibility. Think of the City Manager as chief executive officer who can be held accountable for municipal operations. The City Council is the Board of Directors. The City Manager is the administrative head of city government and subject to the direction and supervision of the council. The City Council usually works with various city departments only through the City Manager. The City Manager has the responsibility to prepare the city budget for council approval and to execute the budget after adoption.

The City Manager holds his office at the pleasure of the council, which may hire and fire the manager at will, not merely for cause.


The City Manager must become a resident of the city and devote his entire time to the duties of his office. The City Manager must:

     1) Make all appointments of municipal employees

     2) See that the laws and ordinances are enforced

     3) Exercise control of all departments that may be created by the council

     4) Attend all meetings of the council with the privilege of taking part in discussions but without a vote

     5) Recommend to the council for adoption such measures as he or she may deem necessary or expedient  

     6) Prepare and submit the annual budget and to keep the city council fully advised as to the financial condition and needs of the city

     7) Prepare and file with the council a monthly itemized statement of receipts and expenditures of the city

     8) Perform such other duties as prescribed by council action


Any municipality that has operated under the Council-Manager form of government for at least six years may abandon the plan in the following manner: 1) Petitions must be signed by at least 25 percent of the voters casting votes for governor in the last preceding general election of the city. 2) A special election is called to determine if the city shall continue to operate under the council-manager plan. 3) If the majority of the votes cast are against the plan, the city reverts to the form of government it abandoned when the council-manager plan was adopted.


The supporters of the council-manager plan claim that:

     1) The city manager brings professionalism and efficiency to city government

     2) The council-manager form provides clear lines of authority and responsibility

     3) Continuity is ensured because city employment is based on ability and productivity, rather than on

          political affiliation

     4) Community leaders will be more willing to serve on the city council because the position no longer

          requires making a multitude of minor decisions

     5) The elimination of numerous elective offices will permit a shorter ballot and less voter confusion   

     6) The complexity of municipal problems requires a trained, full-time manager rather than a part-time,

          elected administrative head


The opponents of the council-manager plan claim that:

     1) The city manager can exercise extraordinary authority for a non-elected official

     2) The manager can influence the decisions of the city council

     3) The city council lacks leadership, because all councilmen have equal powers and responsibilities

     4) City managers are transient professionals who will move to a better job opportunity

     5) Out-of-town experts are not familiar with local problems and needs


Despite the various claims and arguments, the council-manager form of government has slowly, but consistently, increased in number in both Missouri and other states. The majority of the information here was obtained from “Forms of Government for Missouri Municipalities” published in 2007 by the Missouri Municipal League.


My Cameron News

BB Highway
P.O. Box 498
Cameron, MO 64429
PHONE: (816) 632-6543
FAX: (816) 632-4508

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