Turnover among City Managers: The Role of Political and Economic Change


Barbara Coyle McCabe is the director of graduate studies in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. Her research and teaching interests include institutions, local governance, and intergovernmental relations. Her published work has appeared in Administration & Society, Urban Affairs Review, and other journals.
E-mail: barbara.mccabe@asu.edu

Richard C. Feiock is Augustus B. Turnbull Professor of Public Administration at the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, and he directs the local governance program at the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University. His research and teaching interests are in local and urban governance. He is the author of Metropolitan Governance: Conflict, Competition, and Cooperation (Georgetown University Press, 2004) and coauthor of Institutional Constraints and Policy Choice (SUNY Press, 2001) and City–County Consolidation and Its Alternatives: Reshaping the Local Government Landscape (M. E. Sharpe, 2004) and has published widely on issues of local government and governance.
E-mail: rfeiock@coss.fsu.edu

James C. Clingermayer is director of the master of public administration program at Murray State University. His teaching and research interests include local government administration and public policy. His published work has appeared in the Public Administration Review, American Political Science Review, Urban Studies, Criminal Justice Policy Review, Journal of Psychiatry and Law, and other journals.
E-mail: james.clingermayer@murraystate.edu

Christopher Stream is an associate professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His teaching and research includes intergovernmental relations and public policy. His published work has appeared in Public Administration Review, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Political Research Quarterly, and State and Local Government Review. He is the author of the recent textbook State and Local Politics (Wadsworth, 2005).
E-mail: Chris.Stream@unvl.edu


Executive turnover can have profound effects on city policies, programs, and commitments such as contracting or issuing debt. This article identifies how political changes, reflected in the composition of the city council, and economic changes in the community influence city manager turnover. Analysis of manager turnover patterns in 143 large U.S. cities with council-manager governments from 1987 to 1999 allows us to distinguish “push” and “pull” factors that can induce city managers to leave their jobs. The empirical analysis demonstrates that political conflict and economic development can influence the likelihood that a city manager will exit a community, but these effects can be complex. In particular, the influence of community economic development on turnover includes a temporal dimension not revealed in previous research. We conclude by discussing the findings’ implications for career patterns in city management.