In 1962, Charlotte voters approved a new Charter that organized City government as a council-manager city. Under this form of government, all administrative authority is vested in a city manager appointed by the elected city council.
The Council-Manager form of government was one of the innovations of the progressive reform movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was promoted as a means to bring a more business-like approach to the operations of local government by separating the policy-making role of the city council from the responsibility for carrying out that policy. Administrative functions were to be overseen by professionals whose education and experience equipped them to execute the directives of the city council.
In Charlotte, the city manager is responsible for appointing the heads of the various departments (except the city attorney) and for supervising and coordinating their work, for preparing an annual budget, for overseeing personnel practices, including negotiation of labor contracts, for informing council concerning matters important to the City, and for recommending policies for council consideration.
There are many unofficial roles that the city manager plays as well. He or she represents the City in meetings with other community organizations and is the chief spokesperson when dealing with news media. The city manager also represents the city in dealing with officials of state government. He or she is a conduit through which information flows among citizens, council members and employees. He or she is a problem-solver and crisis-manager, tackling difficult or unusual matters that fall outside of the capabilities of other staff members. The city manager also assists the city council and community leaders in planning for the future of the community.
Recognizing the importance of these various responsibilities, the Charlotte Charter requires that the city manager “must have had training for or previous experience in city, public or business administration…” A biographical summary of the current city manager, describing his education and experience, can be found here.