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The Types of City Government and Their Major Powers

Bhakti Satalkar May 10, 2019
Depending on the size of the city and population, the types of government for a city differs. Due to the difference in the city governments, there is change in the administrative and power structure in the said government.
The United States follows a federal form of government, where President is the head of the state and government. There exist the state governments. The different powers are distributed between federal and state government. Some powers are under the exclusive purview of the federal government, while in others, the state government has the final say.
Other than these two governments there are the different local governments. The other name given to the local government is the city government.
While both federal and state government serve the people, city government serves people directly. It is the purview of city government to take care of basic needs of the people. Like, police protection, fire protection, sanitary codes, health regulations, public transport, housing and education come under the jurisdiction of the local governments.
The beauty of local governments is that in most cases these are non partisan. Often the party affiliations are forgotten, when it comes to governing the city. There are different types of government, which govern the cities, with the help of the city charter given by state government. The charter lists out the objectives and powers of local government.

What are the Types of City Government

The type of local governments varies in different parts of the country. However, most of them have a similar structure, with a central council, elected by the voters, an executive officer and heads of different departments. Though there is a charter, about the power and objectives of the city government, they have to work with state and federal government.
The three different types of governments for a city include:
  • Mayor Council
  • Commission
  • Council Manager

Mayor Council

The oldest city government is mayor council kind. This type apes the state and federal government structure, where there is an elected chief of executive branch and a council to help him with administration. Heads of different departments are appointed by the mayor. He is the face of city government. His authority may differ from one city to another.
In some cities, the mayor may have the veto powers, with which he will be able to veto laws passed by the council, while in other cities, the mayor will need the approval of the council. Preparing the budget of the city is the task of the mayor. The purview of the city council is the laws governing the local issues.


As the name suggests a commission comprises three or more elected members from the city. The legislative as well as the executive functions rest with this group of officials. The laws and ordinances are set and passed by the commission working as one single team.
There is a commissioner, who is entrusted with the job of supervising work in one or more city departments. In most cases the commissioner is elected by the voters often with nonpartisan election system. In some cities, a mayor may be elected from the council, but it is merely a decorative or ceremonial post.

Council Manager

The council manager is one of the city government types, where the chief executive officer is not elected, but appointed by the council members. Normally a highly trainer and experienced person is chosen for the job. The policies and ordinances are made by the council, but it is the professional manager who is responsible for implementing the policies.
The day-to-day administration is carried out by the appointed manager. The task of making a budget for the city is the task entrusted to the city manager. The manager holds the post as long as he enjoys the faith of the council, as there is no set term for the manager.
In some cases the city government may either be in its purest form, while in others a system which is a combination of two or more systems may be developed. Often the size of the city and the population does have a role to play for the same.