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City Manager Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: April 15, 2023

A City Manager, or City Administrator, carries out the city council’s decisions and oversees all city employees. Their duties include executing policies, budget management and supervising personnel.

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City Manager duties and responsibilities

A competent City Manager can interpret laws and apply them effectively while managing lots of moving parts. Their main responsibility is to keep the city running efficiently, with daily City Manager job duties including:

  • Ensuring laws and decisions are applied consistently
  • Delegating tasks to city employees
  • Hiring and supervising city department heads
  • Creating and managing the city budget
  • Ensuring city services are available consistently
  • Representing the city to the media and public
  • Overseeing special projects and studies commissioned by the council
  • Addressing the concerns of city residents
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What does a City Manager do?

City Managers oversee all aspects of running the city, working with the city staff and the city council to enforce decisions and laws created by the council members. They work in cities of all sizes, managing the daily operations to ensure a seamless experience for residents. The City Manager ensures city laws and regulations are applied to the regular operations of the municipality.

City Manager skills and qualifications

A successful City Manager candidate will have various prerequisite skills and qualifications needed for the duties, including:

  • Delegation skills to assign tasks to city department heads
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills to convey ideas to staff and interact positively with city residents
  • Knowledge of local laws and codes
  • Mathematical or financial skills for effective budget management
  • Negotiation and problem-solving skills to handle difficult situations
  • Awareness of pressing issues in the city
  • Diplomacy when handling divisive issues
  • Critical thinking skills to approach complex city issues creatively

City Manager experience requirements

City Managers generally have extensive managerial experience leading up to the role. This might include managing a department within a city, municipality or private business. Having experience working for a city or other government body helps the candidate better understand the unique issues and standard processes. Many cities require a minimum of five years working in local government. Being an Assistant City Manager is a natural stepping stone into a City Manager position. An ideal candidate might also have experience in specific parts of the job, such as finance, law or communications.

City Manager education and training requirements

The minimum education requirement for City Manager careers is typically a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as business administration or public administration. Some candidates might also have degrees in finance, communications or political science, as those fields relate to certain aspects of the position. This is especially true if a candidate advances through the ranks in the city, working as a department head and then transitioning into the City Manager role. However, many cities require a master’s degree, specifically a Master of Public Administration.

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City Manager job description FAQs

What qualities make a good City Manager?

Successful City Managers are socially perceptive. This characteristic helps them read people and respond appropriately. Staying calm and professional allows a City Manager to represent the city well to the public and keep difficult situations under control. The candidate also needs strong listening skills to respond appropriately and ensure they’re doing what the city council wants. Listening skills also help them maintain a positive relationship with citizens. Being a City Manager requires oversight of many departments, so strong organizational skills are essential.

What is the difference between a City Manager and a Mayor?

Both people play a leadership role in the city, but the Mayor has a more political role. Mayors are elected officials with the primary responsibility of representing the voters of the municipality. City Managers are usually hired rather than elected, often appointed by the city council or the Mayor. They focus more on keeping the city running smoothly rather than dealing with politics and need to be nonpartisan, which means they shouldn’t do things like campaigning for candidates or displaying political yard signs. Mayors are often involved in creating policies and laws for the city. While City Managers sometimes deal with the public and represent the city, they’re often more behind-the-scenes than the Mayor.

Who does a City Manager report to?

The City Manager generally reports to the city council. In some cities, they report to the Mayor. The City Manager carries out the guidelines, laws and regulations created by these entities, so it makes sense that they fall under their supervision. The City Manager usually has several people reporting to them, primarily all of the department heads for the city.

What should you look for in a City Manager resume?

When evaluating City Manager resumes, look for several years of experience in local government to ensure an understanding of how municipalities work. Previous leadership experience is also a crucial resume component to ensure the candidate can manage all city department heads well. Look for participation in industry organizations, such as the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) to indicate a commitment to high standards in city management. A Master of Public Administration is an ideal degree to look for, but other degrees related to public administration or business administration can also give a candidate a solid background.

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