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Career Profile:  A City Manager
By Robert Anthony Robinson
Research by Katie Rhoads

Whether serving a huge metropolis like New York City or Chicago, or a small village like Dimondale, Michigan, city managers are highly involved in their communities.  It is the responsibility of a city manager to prepare the annual budget, plan for future growth of the city and its surroundings, and to see that the city laws and ordinances are enforced.

 “I need to keep the council informed on the issues, so I have to know,” says Denise Parisian, Dimondale village manager.  “Because a village is a small city, we don’t have a lot of professional staff, so the manager has a lot of responsibilities.  My biggest job is to keep things moving.  I must keep myself educated and a little bit ahead of everybody else so I can coordinate (what goes on).  I rely on consultants and other professionals and spend a fair amount of time doing research.”  Her many other responsibilities as village manager include accounting and book work, banking, personnel, payroll and employee benefits.  “I check in with each of the departments (in Dimondale government) and I spend a lot of time preparing agendas and meeting packets, researching, reading and doing background work.”

 Employment Outlook:  Next 10 Years
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 2.8 percent increase in the need for government chief executives and legislators (including city managers) in the next 10 years.  Because this job is a public service position, there are no self-employed city managers. Very few city managers are unemployed or employed part time.  While city managers work in cities, similar jobs may exist in villages, counties, towns, townships and other special districts.

Total State and Local Government Positions as of 1999         80,000
Total needed by 2010                                                           82,000
Number of Available Positions Each Year                              6,000*

 *Due to growth and total replacement needs.

Necessary Skills

“I am subject to whatever happens over the telephone or whoever walks in the door.  We are here to serve our public, so I feel it’s important to address the issues as they come in.  You need to like people, because you spend most of your hours with those who need something.  You must have the answer and people aren’t always happy with it so you need good communications skills,” says Parisian, who writes dozens of letters and memos and sees scores of people each day.  The ability to coordinate projects, and plan them from start to finish is also essential.  Managers must exercise good personal judgment and efficiently perform a variety of frequently-changing duties. They may have to accept frequent criticism, and do so gracefully with tolerance and patience.

Salary Expectations

Length of Time                                               Yearly Earnings

Starting                                                              $40,000

After 5 Years                                                     $65,000

After 10 - 15 Years                                            $85,000

Wages and benefits depend largely upon the size of the city for which a city manager works.  Most managers receive paid vacations, sick days and holidays, as well as life, accident, disability and hospitalization insurance.  Some are provided with a car or a car allowance.

Training and Education
Training and educational requirements vary from city to city, and depend largely upon the size of the community.  “I recommend having an accounting background with some management.  And it’ s been good for me to be in school while I have had this job.  It has kept me at the forefront in public relations, personnel and management,” says Parisian. Most city, village or towns require a bachelor’s degree in public administration.  “The manager’s position [for the village of Dimondale] requires a degree in a business field or public administration,” says Parisian.  Most colleges and universities in Michigan have accredited, four-year public administration programs.  Students participating in such a program will undergo course work in social sciences, public affairs management, recreation planning, zoning, personnel relations, contract negotiations, budget development and economic policies.

For More Information

The Effective Local Government Manager
By Charldean Newell & David N. Ammons
ISBN#:  0-873260-91-0

Without Fear or Favor: Odyssey of a City, By LeRoy F. Harlow, ISBN#:  0-842514-61-9

On the World Wide Web


The Web site for the International City and County Management Association.  ICMA is a professional and educational organization for appointed managers and administrators in local government around the world.

Copyright © 2000 Robert Anthony Robinson.  Used with permission.

 About Robert Anthony

Robert Anthony has been a freelance author, visual artist, and technical writer for more than 20 years.  He has worked on a multitude of high-end professional writing and marketing projects including Web editorial development, technical writing, sales presentation writing and development, magazine writing, and advertising design.  To date, he has more than 600 published stories and designs to his credit including works in LIS, BROKER WORLD, POPULAR WOODWORKING, WOODSHOP NEWS, THE EBBING TIDE, BUSINESS MONTHLY,  www.wordarchive.com, www.woodworking.org, www.profilesonline.com, www.ogr.org, www.aaaa.org, and PROFILES.  His specialties are how-to and profile stories, publication design and layout and advertising design.

As a pioneering project manager for the award-winning web sites, PROFILES ONLINE, and writer for MOIS [Michigan Occupational Information Service], Robert Anthony has helped pioneer structured approaches to web-based editorial content and design.  From 1994 to 1999 he served as Executive Editor for PROFILES magazine and PROFILES ONLNE, as well as Communications Director for Employee Compensation Advisors, Incorporated from 1988 to 1994.  In addition to his 22 years of marketing experience, he is currently enrolled in motivational psychology studies at Michigan State University.

Robert Anthony resides with his wife and three children in Lansing, Michigan, a town he claims is America’s biggest small town.

 For portfolio samples and a one-time, free consultation, call: Robert Anthony Robinson, 2843 East Grand River Avenue, #133, East Lansing, MI  48823; Tel: (517) 487-3691; Fax: (517) 487-3691; E-mail:  editor@profilesonline.com; Website at: www.profilesonline.com


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