What is a City Manager?

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I am often asked what a City Manager is.  There are many forms of local government in America.  Minneola is chartered as a Manager-Council form of government.  What that means is the City of Minneola has a manager that runs the City’s day to day operations in a nonpartisan way allowing the City Council to focus their time and efforts on policy and legislative matters.  The Manager-Council form of government also provides a certain level of continuity in service delivery to community stakeholders throughout changing political regimes.

As the complexity of local government increases through the services citizens have come to expect from their City as well as ever increasing county, state, and federal rules and regulations, the need for professional municipal management also grows.  City Managers are professional local government managers that strengthen democracy at the local level by bringing ethical, effective, and efficient practices to local government, maintain political neutrality, put the overall welfare of the community first, and bring a community-wide perspective to policies and programs.  Professional managers are leaders who work in partnership with elected officials and residents to turn their priorities into tangible results and are behind the thousands of individual large and small decisions that shape how communities like ours are shaped into places we’re proud to call home.

Professional managers make a difference.  Professionally managed communities are consistently ranked among America’s best places to live.  Professional managers have a codified ethics guidelines on which they rely on to help guide their conduct and decision making.  Professional managers strive for equity, transparency, integrity, stewardship of public resources, political neutrality, and respect for the rights and responsibilities of elected officials and residents

Professional managers bring administrative excellence to local government and provide a balance of inspiring vision and tough pragmatism to operating local government.  A 2011 study by I.B.M. Global Business Services found that professionally managed cities are nearly ten percent (10%) more efficient than those without professional managers.  This saves taxpayers money and enables cities, towns, and counties to do more with less.  Professional local government managers help to create communities that provide the environment every business seeks when choosing a place to put down roots and invest.  Professional local government managers are trained and dedicated in the business of managing a government and its resources.  They are similar to the C.E.O.s of corporations and manage large budgets in fast-paced environments.

As a result of the national economic crises of 2008 and 2009, municipalities have lost much of their federal and state aid.  At the same time, the federal and state governments have passed down a series of unfunded mandates which increase the responsibility for a range of functions and programs.  Local governments are expected to be able to “go it alone” with little help from Washington or the State of Florida.  There will be new cross-sector strategies that become the new normal which will extend beyond the traditional and political boundaries of local government today.  The old rules no longer apply.  This is the time when local governments must develop creative solutions to extraordinary problems.  These changes often require innovative decisions that were once politically unthinkable to help maintain a balance between fiscal challenges and meeting resident’s expectations for services.

Professional local government managers must have a host of skills and experience in financial management and planning, economic development, and navigating financial crises.  Above all, professional managers must be stewards of public resources, ensuring that residents’ income, sales, and property taxes are low and well spent.

In Minneola, professional management has contributed to helping the City become financially stable, eliminating all of the general fund debt, eliminating all of the water fund debt, advancing major transportation projects, installing important infrastructure such as water and wastewater lines, paving roads, installing parks, establishing and managing Community Redevelopment Areas (C.R.A.s) to help provide for the needs of the community without raising taxes and fees, helping property owners navigate changes in local, county, state, and federal laws such as changes incorporated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.) for properties located in flood zones, and resolving the day to day things that concern all of us.  These are just a few examples of how professional managers are catalysts who help turn policy into action and visionary ideas into tangible results in our communities which help make Minneola a place we’re proud to call home.

The success of our community depends on the full engagement, dedication, and leadership of the elected officials, city manager, department heads and their staff, including firefighters, E.M.T.s, paramedics, police officers, water plant operators, wastewater plant operators, water crews, street crews, stormwater crews, school crossing guards, code enforcement officers, utility clerks, planners, librarians, finance, as well as a host of volunteers.  These professionals have the training and tenure required to maintain service delivery across several economic cycles.  They influence resource allocation decisions, focus on implementation, align rules and regulations, and live with the results.

Professional managers are much like executives running private sector corporations.   They bring together the leadership, vision, and focus on results needed to create better communities.