Long–Serving City Managers: Why Do They Stay?



The literature on council–manager government often mentions the political difficulties that city managers face with their elected officials and constituent groups. In addition, the generally accepted route to success for city managers is to move to larger and better–paying cities. As a result of these push–and–pull factors, the average tenure of city managers is short. There are, however, a relatively small number of city managers who enjoy long tenure in single cities. The authors identified the 146 city managers who are serving and have served for at least 20 years the same city and sought to determine the factors leading to their long service. The survey indicates that long–serving city managers are more likely to be found in smaller cities that are homogeneous and politically stable. The majority of these city managers are white males with above–average educational levels, strong support from elected officials, and personal commitments to the cities they serve.