Council-Manager Form of Government

Originating in 1908 in Staunton, Virginia the Council-Manager plan has become the most widely accepted system of local government in the United States. The City of Williamsburg has operated under the Council-Manager plan since 1932. The plan is modeled after the American corporation, as opposed to the Mayor-Council plan which is modeled after the elected branches of government found in the U.S. Constitution.


In the Council-Manager plan, the governing body is composed of public-spirited citizens serving part-time to decide major policy issues, much in the same manner as the Board of Directors of a private corporation. The Mayor's role is to preside over Council meetings much like a Chairman of the Board. Council members serve the interests of the citizens who elected them to office - the stockholders of the corporation.

City Manager

The City Manager, under this system, is comparable to the corporation's Chief Executive Officer, serving at the pleasure of the Board of Directors. The City Manager is a professionally trained public servant charged with implementing the policies and directives of City Council. The City Manager has broad administrative authority with rules prohibiting political interference in administrative matters. Likewise, the City Manager refrains from participating in partisan political activities. Since 1924, members of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) have subscribed to a written and enforced Code of Ethics.

City Council

City Council delegates broad administrative power to the City Manager subject to its continuing review. Qualifications, powers, and duties of the City Manager are provided for in City Charter:

  • Supervise administrative affairs
  • Appoint and remove officers and employees in administrative service
  • Act as chief conservator of the peace
  • See to the enforcement of City ordinances and state laws
  • Make policy recommendations to Council
  • Keep Council advised on financial condition and future needs
  • Prepare and submit an Annual Budget
  • Prepare and submit requested reports
  • Perform as Charter and Council requires

Together, Council and Manager are committed to effective and democratic local government in partnership with all citizens to build a better, stronger Williamsburg community.