What does a City Administrator do?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2019
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A city administrator is an individual who is generally responsible for oversight of all city departments on behalf of a council or mayor. The administrator is typically a full-time position, even if the mayor and council are considered part-time jobs. The city administrator also acts as a liaison between the department directors and the council, thus providing a direct link and advocate for both groups. The city administrator may also be directly responsible for the finance department in some cities.

One of the main jobs of the city administrator, also known as a city manager, is to make sure all other city departments are functioning as expected. The administrator will help various department heads stay on budget, help them set goals, and make sure all departments are working as a cohesive unit for the citizens or residents of the city. The administrator often holds weekly meetings with those departments involved in city government.

In many cases, those with concerns or objections about the way the city is handling an issue may appeal to the city administrator. Depending on the hierarchy in the city government, there may be steps before it reaches the main administrator. For example, some cities may have assistant city administrators. Whether there is an assistant administrator generally depends on the size of the city and the difficulty one person has in handling all areas of the job.


In addition to holding weekly meetings with department directors and acting as an avenue of appeal for the public, the city administrator will also typically take a proactive role in developing an overall budget. The city administrator often works very closely with the finance director to review the numbers, project the revenues, and determine what the city can afford as a budget for the next fiscal year. The council, of course, has the final say, but the city administrator and finance director can have a significant influence on those decisions.

Some cities expect their city administrators to become a high-profile member of the community who is highly visible. Other cities prefer that someone such as the mayor, or possibly even the individual council members themselves, take on that role. If the city expects the manager to maintain a high public profile, this will likely involve working with the media, as well as joining various social organizations and clubs in the community.

In addition to these responsibilities, the top administrator in a city may also play a key role in employee discipline issues. If an employee appeals a disciplinary action from a direct supervisor or department director, the issue will likely be reviewed by the administrator, who may act like a mediator between the two parties. Though this may not take up a great deal of time, it is still another responsibility that many administrators have to deal with from time to time.


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