About City Government

The City of Asheville operates under a council-manager form of government, which is prescribed by its charter. More than 3,400 cities and 371 counties operate under this system, which means more than 89 million American citizens live in communities with this form of government. Since its establishment, the Council-Manager form has become the most popular form of government in the United States in communities with populations of 5,000 citizens or more.

Under the council-manager system, Asheville City Council provides leadership by establishing the city's policies. They are the leaders and policy makers elected to represent the community and to concentrate on policy issues that are responsive to citizens’ needs.

Asheville City Council appoints a city manager to achieve the desired end set by the City Council. The manager oversees day-to-day city operations and executes Council established laws and policies. The city manager also ensures the entire community is being served. If the manager is not responsive to the governing body’s directions and guidance, the governing body has the authority to terminate the manager at any time. City Council also appoints the city attorney and the city clerk.

Not all council-manager governments are structured the same way. In fact, one of the most attractive features is that the council-manager form is adaptable to local conditions and preferences. For example, Asheville City Council members are elected at large while other some city councils are elected by district or by a combination of an at-large and by-district structure.

Read the frequently asked questions below for more information about Asheville’s form of government.

Q: What is City Council’s function?

A: City Council is the legislative body; its members are the community’s decision makers. Power is centralized in the elected council, which approves the budget and determines the tax rate, for example. The council also focuses on the community’s goals, major projects and such long‑term considerations as community growth, land use development, capital improvement plans, capital financing and strategic planning. The council hires a professional manager to carry out the administrative responsibilities and supervises the manager’s performance.

Q: Where does the Mayor of the governing body fit in?

A: The Mayor presides over Council meetings, serves as a spokesperson for the community, facilitates communication and understanding between elected and appointed officials, assists the council in setting goals and advocating policy decisions and serves as a promoter of the community. In addition, the Mayor serves as a key representative in intergovernmental relations. When City Council makes decisions, the Mayor casts one equal vote and does not possess veto power.

Q: What is the City Manager’s function?

A: The city manager is hired to serve the City Council and the community. Professional city managers bring to the local government the benefits of training and experience in administering government projects and programs on behalf of the governing body. The manager prepares a budget for Council’s consideration; recruits, hires and supervises the government’s staff; serves as the Council’s chief adviser; and carries out the Council’s policies. Council members and citizens count on the manager to provide complete and objective information, the pros and cons of alternatives and long‑term consequences. The manager makes recommendations to the Council, but the Council may or may not adopt them and may modify the recommendations. The manager is bound by whatever action City Council takes.

Q: How much citizen participation is possible under Council-Manager government?

A: Successful examples of citizen participation in the local government decision‑making process are widespread among professionally managed communities. Because professional local government management offers government of the people, by the people and for the people, it sets the stage for citizen activism by encouraging open communication between citizens and their government. Because political power is concentrated in the entire governing body rather than one elected official, more citizens have an opportunity to be elected to a position in which they have significant influence over the future of their community. The city of Asheville values and encourages citizen participation and feedback.

Q: For how long do city managers serve City Council?

A: Managers serve at the pleasure of the council or governing body. They can be fired by a majority of the council, consistent with local laws, ordinances, or employment agreements they may have with the council. Control is always in the hands of the people’s elected representatives.