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Managerial Form of Government FAQ
What type of government has been established for the Village of Orland Park?
By voter referendum passed on November 8, 1983, the village’s managerial form of government was established in Orland Park.

What is a managerial form of government, which is used today by so many cities, towns, and counties?
Managerial form of government combines the strong political leadership of elected officials with the strong managerial experience of an appointed manager or administrator. All power and authority to set policy rests with an elected governing body, which includes a mayor or chairperson and members of the council, commission, or board. The governing body in turn hires a nonpartisan manager who has very broad authority to run the organization.

Born out of the U.S. Progressive Reform Movement at the turn of the 20th century, the village manager system was designed to combat corruption and unethical activity in local government by promoting effective management within a transparent, responsive, and accountable structure.

Since its establishment, the managerial form has become the most popular structure of local government in the United States. The form is also widely used throughout the world in countries such as Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

How does managerial government work?
The elected board represents their community and develops a long-range vision for its future. They establish policies that affect the overall operation of the community and are responsive to residents’ needs and wishes.

To ensure that these policies are carried out and that the entire community is equitably served, the governing body appoints a highly trained professional manager on the basis of his/her education, experience, skills, and abilities (and not their political allegiances). If the manager is not responsive to the governing body, it has the authority to terminate the manager at any time.

How can a managerial form of government benefit my community?
A city, town, or county benefits from the managerial form of government in a number of important ways:
  • Political power is concentrated in the entire governing body. The mayor and board share legislative functions.
  • Policy making resides with elected officials, while oversight of the day-to-day operations of the community resides with the village manager. In this way, the elected officials are free to devote time to policy planning and development.
  • The village manager carries out the policies established by the elected governing body with an emphasis on effective, efficient, and equitable service delivery.
  • Because decisions on policy and the future of the community are made by the entire governing body rather than a single individual, managerial governments more often engage and involve their residents in decision making. Residents guide their community by serving on boards and commissions, participating in visioning and strategic planning, and designing community-oriented local government services.
  • The form is flexible enough to adapt to local needs and demands. For example, some communities elect their board at-large, while others elect them by district or by a combination of an at-large-and-by-district system.  Also, the mayor can be directly elected by voters or selected by and from among the council.

What is the role of the village manager under a managerial form of government?
The village manager is hired to serve the board and the community and brings to the local government the benefits of his/her training and experience in administering municipal or county projects and programs. The village manager prepares a budget for the board’s consideration; recruits, hires, terminates, and supervises government staff; serves as the board’s chief advisor; and carries out the board’s policies. Board members and residents count on the village manager to provide complete and objective information about local operations, discuss the pros and cons of alternatives, and offer an assessment of the long-term consequences of their decisions.

Appointed village managers serve at the pleasure of the governing body. They can be fired by a majority of the board, consistent with local laws, or any employment agreements they may enter into with the board. The village manager makes policy recommendations to the board for consideration and final decision. The village manager is bound by whatever action the board takes, and control is always in the hands of the elected officials of the people.

What is the role of the Board of Trustees?
The board is the community’s legislative and policymaking body. Power is centralized in the elected board, which, for example, approves the budget and determines the tax rate. The board also focuses on the community’s goals, major projects, and such long-term considerations as community growth, land use development, capital improvement and financing, and strategic planning. The board hires a professional village manager to implement the administrative responsibilities related to these goals and supervises the village manager’s performance.

What is the role of the mayor?
Mayors in a managerial community are key political and policy leaders, and their specific duties, responsibilities, and authorities depend on the organization’s charter. In village manager communities, typically the mayor is a voting member of the village board who presides at board meetings, represents the village in intergovernmental relationships, appoints members of citizen advisory boards and commissions (with the advice and consent of council), assigns agenda items to committees, facilitates communication and understanding between elected and appointed officials, and assists the board in setting goals and advocating policy decisions.

What value does a professional village manager contribute to a community?
Professional village managers contribute value to a community because they:
  • Work in partnership with elected officials (the board) to develop sound approaches to community challenges by bringing together resources to make the right things happen and produce results that matter
  • Bring a community-wide perspective to policy discussions and strive to connect the past and future while focusing on the present
  • Help the governing body develop the long-term vision for the community that provides a framework for policy development and goal setting
  • Promote ethical government through commitment to a set of ethical standards that goes beyond those required by law
    • Managers, who are members of ICMA, subscribe to the organization’s Code of Ethics, which requires them to “affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by government and maintain a deep sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant.”
  • Encourage inclusion and build consensus among diverse interests (including those of elected officials, the business community, and citizens) by focusing on the entire community rather than the centralized interests of one or two individuals
  • Promote equity and fairness by ensuring that services are fairly distributed and that administrative decisions (such as hiring and contracting) are based on merit rather than favoritism
  • Develop and sustain organizational excellence and promote innovation
    • Professional village managers focus relentlessly on efficient and equitable service delivery, policy implementation, and evaluation. They align the local government’s administrative systems with the values, mission, and policy goals defined by the community and elected officials. 


Does it cost more for a community to adopt the managerial form of government and hire a professional village manager?

Many local governments have found that their overall costs are actually reduced under competent management. Savings can come from decreased operating costs, increased efficiency and productivity, improved revenue collection, and effective use of technology. The economic health of the community may also benefit from implementation of improved business development and retention strategies.

What kinds of communities use the managerial form of government?
In 2007, more than 3,500 (49%) of the 7,171 U.S. cities and towns with populations of 2,500 residents or more operated under the managerial form. This structure is also used by more than 370 counties. More than 92 million people in the U.S. live in communities that operate under this form.

Is the managerial form popular among larger communities?
Of the 247 U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000 residents, 144 (58%) use this form of government. Larger cities and counties that use the form include:

  • Broward County, Florida (pop. 1,623,000)
  • Charlotte, North Carolina (pop. 540,000)
  • Dallas, Texas (pop. 1,188,000)
  • Fairfax County, Virginia (pop. 969,000)
  • Las Vegas, Nevada (pop. 535,000)
  • Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (pop. 695,000)
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (pop. 506,000)
  • Phoenix, Arizona (pop. 1,321,000)
  • San Antonio, Texas (pop. 1,144,000)
  • San Jose, California (pop. 894,000)
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia (pop. 425,000)
  • Wichita, Kansas (pop. 344,000)

How can a community adopt a managerial form of government?

Most communities can adopt a managerial from of government through a charter, local ordinance, state enabling law, or by voter referendum. The Village of Orland Park passed on November 7, 1993 a voter referendum.

Once a community adopts a managerial form of government, how does it choose a professional village manager?
The vacancy usually is announced in the ICMA newsletter, and managers, assistants, and other individuals from across the country are invited to apply. Interested parties apply directly to the council, which reviews the applications and interviews qualified candidates. ICMA makes no recommendations regarding candidates.

What kind of educational and professional experience do professional local government village managers possess?
Nearly 67% of village managers surveyed by ICMA in 2006 indicated that they had earned a master’s (usually in public administration, business, or public policy), or other advanced degree. Respondents to the same survey said they had spent an average of 19 years in the local government management profession.

Do professional village managers have a membership organization?
Yes. The International City / County Management Association (ICMA) is the premier local government leadership and management organization that serves as the professional and educational “home” for appointed professional managers and administrators. ICMA’s membership also includes directors of state associations of local governments, other local government employees, academics, students, and concerned citizens who share the goal of improving local government.

ICMA’s mission is to create excellence in local governance by developing and fostering professional local government management worldwide. To that end, the organization provides technical assistance and publications for management professionals to help them improve their skills and increase their knowledge. ICMA also serves as a clearinghouse for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information and data about local government.

Why is membership in ICMA important for a professional local government village manager?
In addition to gaining access to valuable resources and lifelong professional development opportunities, village managers who belong to ICMA are bound by its Code of Ethics, which states that every member of the organization shall act with integrity in all personal and professional matters so that they will merit the respect and trust of elected officials, employees, and the public. This stringently enforced code specifies 12 ethical principles of personal and professional conduct, including dedication to the cause of good government.

ICMA members believe in the effectiveness of representative democracy and the value of government services provided equitably to residents within a community. ICMA members are also committed to standards of honesty and integrity that go beyond those required by the law. Finally, ICMA defines professional management and recognizes individual members who are qualified by a combination of education and experience, adherence to high standards of integrity, and an assessed commitment to lifelong learning and professional development.  ICMA members who meet these requirements may earn designation as an ICMA credentialed manager.

Are there other independent organizations that support managerial government?
The National Civic League (NCL) is America’s original advocate for community democracy. This nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization is dedicated to strengthening citizen democracy by transforming democratic institutions. NCL accomplishes its mission through technical assistance, training, publishing, research, and promoting the All-America City Awards, America’s original and most prestigious community recognition program.

Founded in 1895, NCL serves as a clearinghouse for information on methods of improving state and local government. The League’s Model City Charter, now in its eighth edition, has endorsed village manager government since 1915.