Media Releases

The Evolving Role of City Managers and Chief Administrative Officers

May 5, 2017

New paper by the Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance explores the role of the city manager in Canadian municipal government.

Toron­to, ON – Local gov­ern­ments func­tion best when they have a coun­cil that rep­re­sents the diverse ele­ments in soci­ety and pro­motes open and delib­er­a­tive deci­sion-mak­ing, sup­port­ed by a pub­lic ser­vice that val­ues pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ratio­nal deci­sion-mak­ing. The often hid­den, but very impor­tant, role of the city man­ag­er and the rela­tion­ship between elect­ed offi­cials and the pub­lic ser­vice is a key deter­mi­nant of the suc­cess of any munic­i­pal­i­ty.

The lat­est IMFG paper in the series on local gov­er­nance in Cana­da demys­ti­fies the chang­ing dynam­ic of how deci­sions are made at city halls across the coun­try. It looks at how the rela­tion­ship between elect­ed offi­cials and the pub­lic ser­vice has changed over time and what role the city man­ag­er or chief admin­is­tra­tive offi­cer plays in main­tain­ing good coun­cil-staff rela­tions.

“To pro­mote good rela­tion­ships, staff must respect democ­ra­cy, and coun­cil mem­bers must respect pro­fes­sion­al man­age­ment and pro­fes­sion­al opin­ion,” write authors Michael Fenn and David Siegel. “The chief admin­is­tra­tive offi­cer pro­vides a link between these two cul­tures – a trans­la­tor between two groups speak­ing dif­fer­ent lan­guages.”

The paper presents prac­ti­cal prin­ci­ples for main­tain­ing good coun­cil-staff rela­tions, and warns of the clouds on the hori­zon that could threat­en the city manager/chief admin­is­tra­tive offi­cer mod­el of local gov­er­nance, which is in place in vir­tu­al­ly every munic­i­pal­i­ty in Ontario and across Cana­da.

Read the full paper here.

About the Authors:

Michael Fenn was an Ontario Deputy Min­is­ter under three Pre­miers, after sev­er­al decades in Ontario local gov­ern­ment, includ­ing as city man­ag­er in Burling­ton, and chief admin­is­tra­tive offi­cer in Hamil­ton. The found­ing CEO of both trans­porta­tion author­i­ty Metrolinx and region­al health author­i­ty Mis­sis­sauga Hal­ton LHIN, he now writes and con­sults on munic­i­pal and infra­struc­ture issues.

David Siegel is the inter­im Dean of the Fac­ul­ty of Edu­ca­tion and Pro­fes­sor of Polit­i­cal Sci­ence at Brock Uni­ver­si­ty. His most recent book is Lead­ers in the Shad­ows: The Lead­er­ship Qual­i­ties of Munic­i­pal Chief Admin­is­tra­tive Offi­cers. He has an M.A. in Pub­lic Admin­is­tra­tion from Car­leton and a Ph.D. in Polit­i­cal Sci­ence from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. He is also a Char­tered Pro­fes­sion­al Accoun­tant.

About the Insti­tute on Munic­i­pal Finance and Gov­er­nance (IMFG)
The Insti­tute on Munic­i­pal Finance and Gov­er­nance is a research hub and think tank that focus­es on the fis­cal and gov­er­nance chal­lenges fac­ing large cities and city-regions. It is locat­ed with­in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Munk School of Glob­al Affairs.

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For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:
Sele­na Zhang | Man­ag­er, Pro­grams and Research
Insti­tute on Munic­i­pal Finance and Gov­er­nance, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to | 416–978-2168