Career Paths of City Managers Summary

Posted: November 30th, 2013





Career Paths of City Managers Summary

It is thought that majority of city managers change their jobs frequently in the time they serve in this position. The main reason for this is that most career city managers have to progress to the top before acquiring the executive position. Nearly all career city managers start as assistant managers before progressing to the top. Others join the ranks of city management when they enter as entry-level interns and work their way up the administrative ladder. Most of the big city managers were appointed from a similar position in small towns. The data in the article shows that about 55 percent of managers take on the positions in key cities after they have expanded their experience public administration from small cities.

Many managers prefer small towns to the bigger towns and climbing the career ladder is not a priority. These kinds of managers believe that they can make a bigger impact on the small towns than in the big cities. The life led in the small towns is better than what is experienced in the big city. This makes it possible for their families to live in a communal society. The managers in this town also enjoy respect from the community at large and this makes them satisfied with their positions. They are appreciated by both political leaders and other leaders in the city. They also share a mutual feeling of trust and friendship. Most managers in these towns serve the community for long periods as compared to their equivalents in the big cities. Most long serving managers serve in cities with a population fewer than 30,000.

Education is a crucial aspect to consider when pursuing city management. Most city managers are career civil engineers. Today, 63 percent of city managers hold at least a masters degree in public administration. This enables them to attain the highest city management positions. Most managers serve longer in other positions, in their quest for the top position than they do when the get the managerial post. Women, however, believe that they only need to go as far as assistant city managers. This is because they have other priorities such as family responsibilities. Unfortunately, this may mean that qualified individuals remain as assistants, and if the assistant position is not vacated, other people looking to seek the top job have to use other avenues to get the top job.

Some managers find themselves in high conflict cities. This is usually in big cities where politicians disagree with the choices made by the managers. Many have cut short their tenure of service since the politics continually interfered with administrative decisions. A high intensity of professional satisfaction is more likely to increase the tenure of an administrator than a conflict zone. Managers who do well understand that democracy is a vital part in the decision making process. These managers enjoy long tenure in office.

Upon reaching the chief administrative job, different types of managers arise. Some managers are long serving servants in just one city. However, this is rare. Only 4.5 percent of the over three thousand managers have served in this capacity. Lateral managers do not take higher profile managerial posts when they move to other cities but enjoy managing small cities. The ladder climber is a manager who wants to work in big cities and is always looking for opportunities to achieve this goal. Finally, there is the single-city careerist who attempts to get to the managerial post by climbing though the ranks serving in various capacities of public service in the same city. The single-city careerist and the ladder climber are the apparent types of city managers.

State and Local Government Summary

            The article tries to answer whether small city manager jobs help the mangers to perform in the big city managerial jobs. It is deemed possible for a manager from a small city of less than 50,000 people to manage successfully in a city with more than 100,000 individuals. The suitable career path for a budding career city manager is by becoming a ladder climber. Most managers, driven by personal ambition, seek large cities. Larger cities accord the chance to work with better budgets and larger staff. The article considers 22 Texas City managers whose tenures lie in the range 1984 – 2008. The aim is to determine what the role experienced in a small city has on tenure and chances of being hired.

The research relies on a dependent variable, that is, the administrator’s tenure of office in cities that have a population of more than 100,000 people. The research carried out has an assumption that the tenure of the managers is dependent on their performance. A successful city means a longer tenure of office. The small and large cities have clear differences that may affect the job performance. The expectations of the big cities as mangers vary greatly from that of small cities. An important, independent variable is the period of managerial experience realized from the small cities. The hypothesis is that the job tenure and chances of being hired as a city manager lie in this experience.

The statistical data presented disapproves the hypothesis suggesting that managers with small city experience are in a better position to be hired as a manager of a large city. The findings suggest that most city managers in the large cities have been promoted from an assistant city managerial position in a large city. The statistics further describe that 71 percent of the current city managers have both large city and small city experience, and 51 percent have practical experience as assistant managers in only large cities. Whatever way one looks at it, the data conclusively indicates that small city experience alone cannot propel one to a big city chief administrative position.

The other hypothesis implies that experience in a small city elongates the period into which one holds a city manager position. Again, the statistical evidence works in opposition to this hypothesis. The data indicates that managers with small city experience have shorter term than their counterparts who have experience in the big cities. Managers with small city experience have an average tenure of six months, but the other managers have an average of 6.7 to 8.1 percent.

The indication from the data is that experience as a small city manager is not enough to propel one to a chief administrative position in a big city. It is also clear that this experience does not guarantee a long serving career as city manager in a large city. The data indicates that having experience in a small city with a population of less than 10,000 people has a negative impact on the period one holds office. The best avenue to a city managerial post is through attaining an assistant manager position in a big city. This offers chances for one to get a promotion to the top position.

The negative influence that the small city experience has on job security in the large cities is can only be beneficial if experience is drawn from both quarters. A combined job experience has a positive impact on the length one holds the job. Managers also need to recognize that success in the smaller cities will not mean success in the big cities. Therefore, they have to adapt their skills by working in big cities to achieve effective management of large cities.


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