Q&A on Council/Manager Form of Government

Town of Montreat

Change in Form of Government Q&A

The Montreat Town Council is considering a change in the form of government as allowed by NC state statute. We have had inquiries about this topic beyond the public discussions at the last three Council meetings. Therefore, we have developed this Question & Answer sheet to help in the understanding of this potential change.

Q:  Why haven’t we heard about this until now?

A:  We began investigating and studying the subject at the beginning of the year. But even before that, Council members talked with other municipalities about the possible change and we discussed it with the School of Government. Then, we had a public discussion about it at the February Council meeting, passed a resolution for a public hearing in March, offered public discussion at the same meeting, then held the public hearing in April. The original intent was to have the Council vote on the change in May. However, because of the questions about this topic, we are delaying action until the June 9 meeting and will have public questions and discussion during the Public Forum at the May 12 meeting.

Q:  What does “form of government” mean?

A:  There are two forms of government for municipalities that are allowed in the NC state statute: a mayor/council form and a council/manager form. We currently govern under a mayor/council form and are seeking to change to a council/manager form.

Q: Practically speaking, what does this mean to us?

A:  In the mayor/council form, all of the staff, including the administrator, report directly to the mayor. In the case of Montreat, our mayor has given the day-to-day management responsibilities to the town administrator. However, legally, everyone does report to the mayor.

In the council/manager form, it is more like a typical business organization where the staff report to the highest level appointed employee (in this case the manager) and the manager reports to the board. The manager holds the responsibility of hiring and releasing staff.

In our search for a new “leader”, we would hire a town manager instead of a town administrator.

Q: Why would we want to make the change?

A:  There are two primary advantages to the Town for the council/manager form:

  1. It removes the potential politics from day-to-day operations. With the current form, the elected Town Council has hiring and firing authority for all staff. In the council/manager form, the town manager is responsible for all hiring and firing and thus any possible political pressure is removed from all staff and their daily work. Essentially, the council/manager form combines the strong political leadership of elected officials with the strong managerial experience of an appointed manager

  2. A town manager position has far more appeal in recruitment and retention than a town administrator. This results in the town’s ability to recruit a more experienced manager, who in turn will operate the town more efficiently and effectively than someone with less experience.

Q:  Will the change affect the mayor’s role?

A:  Yes, it will take the mayor out of day-to-day operations and personnel issues, leaving more time to focus on legislative and policy issues. The mayor will continue to be a voting member of the town council, preside at council meetings, represent Montreat in intergovernmental relationships, facilitate

communication and understanding between the council and the town manager, and assist the council in setting goals and advocating policy decisions, among other things. The mayor and the commissioners will still review and approve the annual budget and maintain all current financial responsibilities.

Q:  Will it cost the town more money to have a manager instead of an administrator?

A:  Possibly, but not necessarily. As in any personnel situation, it may cost the town more in salary to hire a more experienced individual. However, other communities where this type of change has occurred have found that expenses are actually reduced under more experienced management. Savings can come from decreased operating costs, more informed decision making, improved revenue collection, and general increased efficiency and productivity.

Q:  What if I want to learn more about this possible change?

A:  By all means come to next month’s Public Forum (May 12, 6:30pm). CLICK HERE to download a brochure describing the Council/Manager form. Also, seek out and speak to the mayor or any of the five commissioners. CLICK HERE to get a list of council member names and phone numbers.