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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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CITY MANAGERS. The city manager is the principal executive and administrative officer of a municipality under a council-manager system of local government. Under such a form, the voters elect only the city council, which appoints a city manager to administer municipal affairs under its supervision. The council acts only collectively, and its individual members, including the mayor, have no administrative functions. The city manager, subject to the general supervision of the council, is in full charge of the administration of municipal affairs. The city manager prepares the budget, appoints and dismisses personnel, directs the work of municipal departments, and attends council meetings in which he presents recommendations on municipal business and usually takes an active part in the discussions. (1)

The council-manager plan was devised and first proposed in the United States by the National Short Ballot Organization, which sought to improve local and state government by reducing the number of elected officials. In 1913 Dayton, Ohio, was the first large city to adopt the plan which was adopted in many cities in the United States and Canada as well as in Ireland, Norway, and Sweden. (2) During the 1910s and 1920s, more than two hundred American cities adopted the city manager form of government. The National Municipal League was so enthused with the idea that it abandoned the strong mayor plan for the city manager form in model city charter that it adopted in 1915 (3)

The dvantages of the council-manager plan are said to be that it provides for a shorter ballot by reducing the number of elected officials; unifies authority and political responsibility in the council; centralizes administrative responsibility in an administrator appointed by the council; and reduces the number of patronage jobs. Some criticisms of the plan are that the city manager usually comes from outside the city and is therefore unfamiliar with the problems of the city; places too much power in the hands of one person; promotes a middle-class orientation to efficiency rather than to need; and that the purely bureaucratic administration of the city may be unresponsive to the demands and problems of the people. (4)

ICMA is the professional and educational organization for chief appointed managers,administrators, and assistants in cities, towns, counties, and regional entities throughout the world. Since 1914, ICMA has provided technical and management assistance, training, and information resources to its members and the local government community. The management decisions made by ICMA's nearly 8,000 members affect more than 100 million individuals in thousands of communities--from small towns with populations of a few hundred to metropolitan areas serving several million. (5) Manager members of the ICMA are bound by a rather rigid and strongly enforced code of ethics that was originally established in 1924. Since that time the code had been up-dated/revised on seven occasions, the latest taking place in 1998. The updates have taken into account the evolving duties, responsibilities, and expectations of the profession; however the core dictate of the body of the code--“to integrity; public service; seek no favor; exemplary conduct in both personal and professional matters; respect the role and contributions of elected officials; exercise the independence to do what is right; political neutrality; serve the public equitably and governing body members equally; keep the community informed about local government matters; and support and lead our employees”—have not changed since the first edition. (6)

Dubuque's city managers have included:

Ossian E. CARR

C. E. Douglas, an Army officer in WORLD WAR I, served as city manager from July 20, 1925 to March 1, 1928. He came to Dubuque from Newport News, Virginia and continued development programs of Ossian Carr but resigned with less than three years of service. He later served one year as the manager of Glendale, California.

O. A. Kratz served as the city manager from March 15, 1928 to June 2, 1930. After leading the reconstruction of Astoria, Oregon after an $11 million fire, Kratz came to Dubuque with a fine reputation as a manager. He established municipal garbage collection in Dubuque and fought back when the city council began to involved itself in the manager's functions. He left to serve as the manager of Covington, Kentucky.

Roger M. Evans served as the Dubuque city manager from August 4, 1930 to July 15, 1937. Faced with the GREAT DEPRESSION, Evans developed the airport on CITY ISLAND with federal funding. Despite surviving an attempt in 1934 by the city council to end the manager system in Dubuque, he was eventually forced out of the position.

Albin Anton RHOMBERG






1. "City Manager," Encyclopedia Britannica, Online: https://www.britannica.com/topic/city-manager

2. Ibid.

3. Fairbanks, Robert Bruce; Mooney-Melvin, Patricia; Miller, Zane L. Making Sense of the City: Local Government, Civic Culture, and Community Life in Urban America, Ohio State University Press, 2001, p. 85, Online: https://books.google.com/books?id=2jT_3aZGDE4C&pg=PA85#v=onepage&q&f=false

4. "City Manager"

5. "Organization Overview," ICMA-Leaders at the Core of Better Communities, Online: https://web.archive.org/web/20071115085136/http://www.icma.org/main/bc.asp?bcid=60&hsid=1&ssid1=17

6. Ibid.