Local government positions span cities, towns and counties. Usually, these individuals will serve on the legislative and executive branches and, depending on state law, they will remain for an allocated term length. Take a look at some common positions at the local government level.
As the leader of a city, town or village, the mayor concentrates on improving local living conditions. Also, this person traditionally oversees fire, police, housing, education, transportation and other primary departments. There is variance with the mayor’s responsibilities, which are tied to the structure of government in the region. For instance, a city may use the popular council-weak mayor structure, in which the mayor leads the council members, who have more authority. Other structures include the council-strong mayor, council-manager system and commission system. Other responsibilities can include budget planning and public relations, where the mayor will review capital improvement plans and represent the region at civic affairs, respectively.
City Manager and Assistant City Manager
Under the council-manager form of government, the city manager serves as the chief executive officer of a city. Similar positions exist in other government forms, such as deputy mayor, where the individual would have similar job responsibilities. The city manager will guide and provide expert opinions on city council decisions—and directly reports to the city council. The assistant city manager reports to the city manager and often focuses on internal issues. More than one assistant city manager can be present, in which case it’s common for an individual to be in charge of similar departments, such as the fire and police departments. Both of these positions require a good relationship with the city council.
City Council Member
As part of the city council, members in this role are responsible for passing ordinances and budgets, setting taxes and other responsibilities. They will also appoint city administrators, such as the chief of police or city manager. It’s common to have anywhere from five to 50 members that make up the council, often referred to as council members or aldermen. Generally, city council members serve for four years.
In many states, county commissioners exercise only authorities that are expressly granted to them by law. Common services include recording of deeds, judicial administration, law enforcement and corrections, public welfare and general governmental administration. However, other states allow counties to perform any activities not expressly granted to another entity. In either case, county commissioners can perform a wide range of responsibilities that are designed to improve the county. Recently, items like parking, planning zoning, mass transit and other areas typically found in urban service delivery areas have come under the responsibilities of county commissioners.
The city attorney helps the local government take care of its legal issues. During litigation, the person will represent the city—in other times, the city attorney will advise city officials and prepare legal documents. In larger cities, the city attorney can oversee several assistant attorneys who may specialize in certain areas. Overall, the city attorney is the legal representative of the city and acts as a legal adviser for city officials.
If you’re interested in these careers, an online B.A. in Political Science from Brescia University can provide an excellent foundation for your future in local government.