Development of the City Management Profession and its Related Organizations
The appointment of an individual to a position similar to that of city manager occurred in Stanton, Virginia, in 1908, where a “general manager” was employed to oversee the administrative functions of the municipality. In 1912, Sumter, South Carolina, became the first city to formally adopt the Council-Manager form of government. The following year, the cities of Terrell and Amarillo became the first Texas cities to adopt the C-M plan. In 1914, Dayton, Ohio, became the first municipality of substantial size to operate under the new form of government.
In 1914, the City Manager’s Association (CMA), as it was then called, held its initial meeting at a time when only 32 cities in thirteen states were operating under the C-M plan. The meeting was held in Springfield, Ohio, at the suggestion of H. M. Hardin of Amarillo and the invitation of Henry M. Waite (the City Manager of Dayton, Ohio) and Charles E. Ashburner (the City Manager of Springfield, Illinois).
Originally located in New York City, and then at the University of Kansas, ICMA moved to the University of Chicago in 1929. During the 1930s, ICMA became aligned with several other public sector organizations. A grant from the Spelman fund was used to construct the Center for Public Administration in Chicago, which housed ICMA, the Public Personnel Association, Municipal Finance Officers Association, Council of State Governments, and American Public Welfare Association. Collectively, these organizations established what became known as the Public Administration clearinghouse to develop and distribute public management-related information. In 1967, ICMA relocated its headquarters to Washington, D.C.
Coincidental with the development of ICMA, a statewide association of cities was formed in Texas. In 1913, A. P. Wooldridge, the mayor of Austin, called a meeting of city officials in Austin and advised his colleagues that a statewide association of cities needed to be organized. Wooldridge pointed out that the recently-passed Home Rule Amendment to the Texas Constitution gave cities new powers and responsibilities, and that a municipal association was needed to study the potential of these changes and develop ideas and information on how to implement them. Also, Wooldridge said, the state legislature had recently created a Bureau of Municipal Research and Reference at the University of Texas, and a statewide organization of cities could facilitate the purposes of the bureau. And finally, the cities needed a forum for advocating their objectives before the state legislature.
The meeting produced the League of Texas Municipalities, which began with 14 member cities. (The name of the organization was changed to Texas Municipal League in 1958.) A constitution and bylaws were adopted, dues were assessed to finance the organization, and yearly conferences of city officials in the state were planned.
Through its monthly magazine, Texas Municipalities (now known as Texas Town & City), the League provided its membership with information on topics of major concern to city officials. Many early issues of the magazine discussed the advantages of the council-manager form of government and stressed themes similar to those covered in ICMA’s publications.
The League was assisted by the Bureau of Municipal Research, which served as a clearinghouse of information on charters, ordinances, and other items of interest to cities. The director of the bureau, who was also the League’s secretary-treasurer, served as editor of Texas Municipalities and arranged in-service training seminars and short courses for city officials.
In 1926, the Texas City Manager’s Association (TCMA), as it was then called, was organized as a department of the League. E. E. McAdams, first President of TCMA, was named executive director of the League of Texas Municipalities in 1934, a position he held until 1957. Similar to ICMA, the Texas managers association concentrated on the development of professional standards for city managers, promotion of the council-manager plan, and the exchange of ideas between managers.
In 1930, there were 400 local governments with the council-manager plan nationwide. Since 1945, the rate of increase has averaged 50 places annually. By December, 1985, ICMA had verified the existence of the plan in 2,775 U.S. and Canadian local governments. Today, there are over 2,835 local governments operating under the C-M plan.
The council-manager form of government is widely used in the United States and Texas. It has proven to be successful in large part because it stresses professionalism in city government. The international association of city managers (ICMA), as well as the Texas association (TCMA), have had as central themes the promotion of professional standards, the exchange of information, and honesty and efficiency in city government.
Without the aid of these strong associations of city officials, many of the management principles and practices followed by cities of all types, not only council-manager cities, would not be with us today. Professionalism and integrity have become the trademarks of the modern city manager in Texas, a factor that has gained Texas cities national recognition as leaders in the municipal government arena.