City Governance

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) listed at least three defining characteristics that distinguish a truly council-manager government:

  • All governmental authority rests with the council, or other sovereign elected body, except for certain duties that are assigned by charter or other law to the manager, however, the manager always is employed at the pleasure of the elected body.
  • The appointed executive, a manager, officially is allocated the executive or administrative functions in codified form, minimum functions not being at the whim of a mayor, for example.
  • The manager must be responsible to, hired by, and can be dismissed only by the entire council, not one individual, such as a mayor or chairperson.

Berkeley was incorporated on April 4, 1878, and the first Charter was adopted March 5, 1895. In 1923, Berkeley adopted the Council-Manager form of government. 

The Berkeley City Council consists of eight Councilmembers, elected by districts for four-year terms, and one Mayor, elected “at large” for a four-year term. The Mayor is the President of the Council and votes as an individual ninth member. 

The City Council is the legislative branch of Berkeley’s municipal government, the people’s elected representatives. Council meetings are open public meetings where the Council makes local laws, policies and basic decisions for the municipality.  

The City Council appoints the City Manager whose responsibilities include enforcement of ordinances and preparation of the annual budget, along with administration and coordination of the City’s operations. Except for the Auditor, who is an elected official, the City Manager appoints a staff member to head each Department to assist him in carrying out his duties.



Section 21. The Mayor’s powers. 

The Mayor shall be the chairman of the Council, and shall preside at the meetings of the Council and perform such other duties consistent with his or her office as may be imposed by the Council. He or she shall be entitled to a vote on all matters coming before the Council, but shall possess no veto power. He or she shall be recognized as the official head of the City for all ceremonial purposes, by the courts for the purposes of serving civil processes, and by the Governor for military purpose. He or she may use the title of Mayor in any case in which the execution of contracts or other legal instruments in writing, or other necessity arising from the general laws of this State, may so require; but this shall not be construed as conferring upon him or her administrative or judicial functions or other powers or functions of a Mayor, under the general laws of the State. The powers and duties of the Mayor shall be such as are conferred upon him or her by this amendment, together with such others as may be conferred by the Council in the pursuance of the provisions of this amendment, and no others. 


Section 27. The City Manager.

The Council shall appoint an officer known as the City Manager, who shall be the administrative head of the Municipal Government and who shall be responsible for the efficient administration of all departments. The City Manager shall receive such salary as may be fixed by the Council. The City Manager shall be chosen by the Council without regard to his or her political beliefs, and solely on the basis of executive and administrative qualifications…

Section 28. Powers and duties of City Manager.

The City Manager shall be responsible to the Council for the implementation of Council policy and for the efficient administration of all the affairs of the City. The City Manager shall have the following powers and duties:

Section 31. Creation of departments and job classifications.

The Council shall have power by ordinance to create and discontinue departments and by resolution establish job classifications to prescribe the duties thereof.

Section 32. Compensation of officers and employees.

The Council shall fix the compensation of all officers and employees on recommendation of the City Manager, except as in this Charter otherwise provided. No officer or employee shall be allowed any fees, perquisites, emoluments, rewards or compensation, aside from the salary or compensation as fixed by the Council, but all fees received by him or her in connection with his or her official duties shall be paid into the City Treasury.

Section 33. Reports of departments.

Each department and commission shall annually on such date as may be fixed by the Council, render to the City Manager and the Council a full report of all operations of such department or commission for the year.

Section 34. Reports to be published.

The Council shall provide for the publication of the annual report of the City Manager… 


Section 38. The Council, the governing body.

The Council shall be the governing body of the municipality. It shall exercise the corporate powers of the City, and, subject to the express limitations of this Charter, shall be vested with all powers of legislation in municipal affairs adequate to a complete system of local government consistent with the Constitution of the State.

Section 39. President and Vice-President.

The Mayor shall be President of the Council and shall preside at its meetings when present. The Council shall elect one of its number to be Vice-President.

Section 40. Meetings of Council.

The Council shall provide for the time and place of holding its meetings and the manner in which its special meetings may be called.

Section 41. Meetings to be public.

All legislative sessions of the Council, whether regular or special, shall be open to the public…