The assistant city manager is an appointed administrator who supports the city manager in any and all responsibilities assigned by a mayor or city council to that manager. In turn, the assistant to the city manager is delegated specific ongoing responsibilities as well as sometimes taking on duties related to short term projects approved by the mayor or council. With many city charters and bylaws, the assistant city manager can be empowered to take over all the responsibilities of the city manager in the event that the manager is incapacitated or leaves office for any reason.
Assistant city managers are part of the team that makes sure the city is operating in an efficient manner. Depending on the decisions of the officials elected to govern the jurisdiction, the assistant city manager may participate in the preparation of citywide budgets, and handle the hiring and firing of various administrative personnel. The assistant manager may also function as the liaison between the departments and the heads of departments such as the police, the fire department, and the sanitation department.
It is not unusual for an assistant city manager to represent the local civil government at various gatherings around the city. At times, the assistant manager may be called upon to act in an official capacity to make announcements to the local press and the community at large. The assistant may also attend meetings of the local Chamber of Commerce or a worker’s union as the official spokesperson for the local government.
Part of the assistant city manager job in many municipalities is to be directly involved in any type of labor relations, including disputes with local unions. For this reason, most assistant managers of this type are well trained in contract negotiations and strategies. The goal is usually to arrive at a resolution to the dispute that both the union and the city council can accept and support.
An assistant city manager may also represent the city council and the mayor at community functions. These include public gatherings like parades, the grand openings of new businesses, or any type of public relations event where it is deemed appropriate for the city government to be represented. From this perspective, the role of the assistant city manager is not only as an administrator but also as a direct link between the government and the citizens of the city.
The degree of latitude and authority granted to an assistant city manager will vary from one situation to another. In general, the assistant has only as much authority as is delegated to him or her by the city manager. In turn, the city manager can only delegate so much authority to the assistant, based on the directives provided by the mayor and/or the city council.