Model City Charter

Model City Charter, 8th Edition

Defining Good Government in a New Millennium { order }
The Model City Charter has exerted enormous influence over the structuring of municipal governance for more than a century. Published in 2003, the eighth edition recommends the “council-manager” structure of municipal government first proposed in the 1915 model. It has become the most widely used governmental structure in American cities with a population over 10,000. The model has been refined over the years, but the fundamental principle, that all powers of the city be vested in a popularly elected council, which appoints a professional manager who is continuously responsible to and removable by the council, remains the same.

City Council

The model does not advance a preferred method for electing the council but does underscore the value of at-large elections. In keeping with the seventh edition, the eighth edition recognizes that the use of single-member districts remains popular for selecting council members as a means of ensuring compliance with the Voting Rights Act, and the benefits of the mixed form (combining at-large and single-member elections) are highlighted.

City Manager

A new emphasis was given to recognizing the professionalism of the city manager. A new emphasis on promoting long-term goals, regional and intergovernmental cooperation, and greater citizen participation is exemplified by the addition of the following tasks to the duties of the city manager: 1) Assist the council to develop long-term goals for the city and strategies to implement these goals; 2) Encourage and provide staff support for regional and intergovernmental cooperation, and 3) Promote partnerships among council, staff, and citizens in developing public policy and building a sense of community.


The Eighth Edition emphasizes the need to further clarify the role of the mayor. It specifies certain duties of the nonexecutive mayor that are entirely consistent with the basic concept of the council-manager plan. The mayor in the council-manager government is the chief legislator, the leader of the policy-making team. The model presents two alternatives for choosing the mayor without stating a preference: direct election of the mayor by the voters and election by and from the council.


In the commentary sections of the eighth edition of the model charter, particular attention is paid to the increasing salience of regionalism, new information technologies, improvements in performance measurement, citizen participation in public life, and the fostering of interaction among neighborhoods.

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