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Thread: Becoming city manager

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Becoming city manager

    Would any of you planners ever consider becoming City Managers one day; or is it to much work? I was also wondering if you can become a city manager with a masters in planning with the emphasis area being policy and administraton, or should i just go for the MPA. It is because i would like to be a city manager one day, but I am more interested in studying planning than just administration. What suggestions do you all have or what do you all think?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Suffer a severe brain injury. Seriously, I think Planners make the best City Managers but no way is it for me.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ah....

    Quote Originally posted by Laredo Urbanist
    Would any of you planners ever consider becoming City Managers one day; or is it to much work? I was also wondering if you can become a city manager with a masters in planning with the emphasis area being policy and administraton, or should i just go for the MPA. It is because i would like to be a city manager one day, but I am more interested in studying planning than just administration. What suggestions do you all have or what do you all think?
    One reason I think planners make good City Managers might be that they don't really want the job....at least I hope that's a reason.....

    If I wanted to be in politics, I'd run for office, a City Manager is someone that recognizes that they lack the charisma or charm to win office and takes the "lower" road to politics I've worked with enough "tyrants"....er City Managers to know that......

    Now, County Managers are where its at....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  4. #4
         
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    I would not want to be a CA in this City, no way, not a chance...I don't think thats really what I want to do. City Administration is probably too political for my taste...

  5. #5
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    As a planner who is a City Manager, I like it. Of course I am in a great small city right now with tons of commercial growth so I also do a lot of planning. The last town I managed had no growth at all, so it was pretty boring for this planner. I know many CM's that are planners so there must be something to it.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  6. #6
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I think it's a rational and natural optional next step for a planner that hits the ceiling of being a planning director and wants to continue a career path upward and not change over to consulting or state/county planning

    I'm not sure it's for me - the thought of managing/producing a multi-million dollar budget is way over my head and of little interest right now - other parts of the position I would be comfortable with from my experience, but not that

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Laredo Urbanist
    Would any of you planners ever consider becoming City Managers one day; or is it to much work?
    Heck yeah. Either that or mayor, councilor or state rep.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian big_g's avatar
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    I have often considered eventually moving my career in that direction. For right now, I'm still getting my feet wet here in the working world of things related to planning. So once I get a lot more experience and an advanced degree, I think I will seek a position in a city or county management.

    But to do this we have to develope very thick skin and lots of confidence for that kind of job.

  9. #9
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    Need Help/Advice

    Hello all. I'm a new member to Cyburbia. I have some questionsthat it would be helpful to get answers to. I have had an MRI (they assure me everything is fine) and I WANT to become a city manager. I am a senior in undergrad studies right now, majoring Political Science, with an emphasis in Public Administration. I intend to immediately enter the MPA program the Fall of 2009. Here is my question: What kids of career steps do I need to take, or what opportunities might it be prudent to take advantage of to gain the requisite experience toward becoming a city manager? Is becoming a city manager with 10-12 years of graduating with my bachelor's a realistic goal? What kind of jobs should I pursue after graduating? If anyone has advice, or perhaps websites of other forums with more information, I would be very interested in hearing from you. Thanks, and I hope everyone's weekend is going fabulous!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    I think City Manager would be a great position to transition to EXCEPT if you hate the Council in your city.

    Also, City Manager pays a hell of a lot. I think the Vancouver city manager is up to about $380k.

    I think I would be more likely to run for council, though.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Ryster99 View post
    Hello all. I'm a new member to Cyburbia. I have some questionsthat it would be helpful to get answers to. I have had an MRI (they assure me everything is fine) and I WANT to become a city manager. I am a senior in undergrad studies right now, majoring Political Science, with an emphasis in Public Administration. I intend to immediately enter the MPA program the Fall of 2009. Here is my question: What kids of career steps do I need to take, or what opportunities might it be prudent to take advantage of to gain the requisite experience toward becoming a city manager? Is becoming a city manager with 10-12 years of graduating with my bachelor's a realistic goal? What kind of jobs should I pursue after graduating? If anyone has advice, or perhaps websites of other forums with more information, I would be very interested in hearing from you. Thanks, and I hope everyone's weekend is going fabulous!
    In most circumstances, thinking you can be a City Manager in 10-12 years is just not realistic. The only time I've seen it happen is after employment for a few years in a very small town, as a planner or budget director, and then you're making less $$ than someone with half the responsibility in a larger jurisdiction.

    You need to understand that completing an MPA does not qualify you for a high-ranking position. Lots of professors in MPA programs are failed government workers and may give bad advice (been in one, seen it happen). It is not a substitute for working experience.

    Then there are the personality factors. Can you cope with a lot of petty politics? (Well, you really won't know how it can frustrate you until you are working in government...) Can you negotiate? Deal with the press? Write well? Look professional? Do you have a problem with being fired every 3-5 years? No issue with being skewered in the press every week?

    Honestly, even being a Planning Director in a modestly sized community after 10-12 yrs is a reach. So you probably need to scale back your expectations and get some experience out there.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    A few wireless zoning gigs ago, I met a CM who was a MPA grad fresh out of college, and still in his 20's. Population in his burg: about 2000. If memory serves, he moved on to another nearby small town after a couple of years at the first gig.

    HTH

  13. #13
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    ZG is spot on about MPA professors over-inflating graduate expectations. 75% of them have never worked outside the ivory tower, so they are the LAST people I would take career advice from.

    I'll assume you are a traditional student of about 22-23 with no experience. I think 10-12 years to a full CM is possible for a city under 40,000 population, but you would have to be a serious go-getter and make all of the right career moves. I've noticed most city managers pop up from the emergency services or finance, though I've also met plenty of city managers that have done time as planners. The trick is getting the broad experience and supervision responsibility in a compact time. My suggestion, if you want to work through the planning side to city manager, is get into long-range planning where you often have to conduct tons of community workshops, work with the press, etc. If you can get into capital improvements planning, even better as that exposes you to finance and gives you a healthy dose of budget politics.

    For a comparable, I was a director straight out of undergrad for a city of 5,000. The experience was great, but I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I damn near quit the profession. Work your way up and build a thick skin. Do you like having free time? Kiss that goodbye as CM. Don't kill yourself just trying to get a title and six-digit salary. Even in mid and lower level positions you can positively impact the quality of life of a city.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  14. #14
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    My original end-all goal for my career was to be a city manager, but after working for a municipal government of a small-ish town for over a year now, I'd probably say my mind is changed. I would more likely enjoy being an assistant city manager who oversees development-related departments (planning, building, public works, etc) as an end goal. There would seem to be less petty politics at that level (although it still runs rampant) and slightly higher job security. The only downside would be dealing with new management every 3-7 years and the associated changes of style, ideas, visions, etc. that go with that (and pray that the new management doesn't bring his entire staff from his previous job with him, including your position [*cough* Marc Ott *cough*]).

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    I have known CM that were fresh out of college but they were towns of less than 2,000 people. Those that run small towns tend to stay in small towns. If you want to be a CM and don't can the size of the city then you can find work after your MPA. If you want to run a larger city then get hired and work your way up. It takes a special breed to run a city, it is a thankless job with little job security and ton of headaches.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  16. #16

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    My Path

    I don't think you would need to take 10-12 years to become a City Manager, depending on the size of the city you would like to work in.

    I was a finalist for a number of CM positions and I just recently graduated with my MPA. I also had 2 years as an Assistant to the CM and another year in GIS Tech/Planning work.

    Now I serve as the Zoning Admin for a community of roughly 11,000 with a pretty good size college. My next move will be to an Assistant CM or CM position. That will happen in roughly 2 years.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    I struggle a lot with the "do I want to be a manager" question. I love planning and the topics and worry that I'd lose passion for what I did if I was in management. I am a department head of planning, so I get a bit of both -- I do budgets and manage people, but I also get to do planning and roll around in the pit of planning issues.

    The money is very attractive in the CM arena, but the head aches associated with that $20,000 pay increase may not be worth it. I think about dealing with police chiefs and fire department unions....disgruntled clerks and a really political board - being the place where the buck stops and the job insecurity. I think my little planning commission and ZBA are just fine, thank you very much.

    If you love planning, you should stay in planning and work to move to bigger positions and larger cities (or maybe not depending on your lifestyle). If you want to be a manager, planning is a good step on the ladder toward being a assistant maanger. I know several planning department heads that ended up in as assistant managers or managers. You may need to take 10 years in the field to figure that out.

  18. #18
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Here is the path I took:

    Lone planner in a town of 10,000 for five years. Because of the small size, I got to do other city stuff along with planning.

    started applying for CM jobs and started in a town of 1,500. Moved to my current job population 3,100. So it can work.


    One note: If you can find a place population 1,000-2,000 on the fringe of a high growth area, you can stay in one place and grow with it. When it reaches 20,000 + the salary will make up for the first few years of low pay. Those places are also the ones that will value a planning degree.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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