Commissioner forms of government were at their height of popularity

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This web page gives historical background about the mayor-council, commission, and also council-manager develops of city federal government in Washington State considering that statehood in 1889.

For a general overwatch and compariboy of the various forms, view our City and also Town Forms of Government page.

Mayor-Council: The Original Form of Government

The mayor-council develop is the earliest create of government uncovered in Washington cities and also was the only option easily accessible to the majority of cities from statehood in 1889 until 1910 as soon as the commission create was initially presented.

This develop is composed of an chosen mayor (chosen at-large) that serves as the city's chief bureaucratic officer and also a council (elected either at-large or from districts) which is responsible for formulating and adopting city plans. The mayor-council form is defined by a separation of executive and also legislative powers and also a mechanism of checks and also balances patterned after our traditional nationwide and also state federal governments. In all however the largest cities, chosen city and town mayors and councilmembers serve on a part-time basis leaving many of the day-to-day operations to assorted complete and part-time governmental personnel.

Nationally, mayor-council governments have been classified as either "" or "" forms relying on the degree of executive authority that is focused in the office of mayor. In Washington the state legislature basically gave for the "" type of mayor-council government except that mayors in towns execute not have the authority to veto ordinances. By the moment of statehood in 1889, there were 32 cities in Washington operating under the mayor-council create of federal government. From that time the number of cities operating under this form steadily raised, to 190 in 1920 and also 208 by 1940, ending up being the many renowned form of government among Washington cities, specifically among those cities and also towns under 5,000 population.

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Progressive Reform Movement Explores New Alternatives

On the national scene, the gradual reform movement of the early on 1900s resulted in the advancement of 2 new develops of federal government, the commission develop and also the council-manager create. Concerned through the excesses of " machines" operating in many of the country's cities and dissatisfied with the bad quality of municipal solutions, government reformers of this duration sought to improve city federal government by rerelocating politics from administration and also by presenting the worths of performance and also professionalism obtained from the version of America's successful business institutions.

Commission Form

At first presented at Galveston, Texas in 1901 in response to a damaging natural disaster, the commission develop was the first major alternative to the mayor-council develop and was commonly adopted in the USA during the beforehand 1900s. The commission form featured a small council whose members worked jointly as the city legislative body and individually as city department heads. In concept, combining executive and legislative duty in one small elected body was expected to cause raised political accountability and also a much more reliable and also responsive city federal government.

Tacoma and Spokane were the initially cities to adopt the commission create in Washington, both in 1910. As initially course cities, Tacoma and Spokane were able to adopt the commission create through their charter authority. For various other classes of cities, allowing legislation authorizing adoption of the commission develop was enacted in 1911. Other cities adopting this form contained Yakima, Walla Walla, and also Chehalis in 1911, and Centralia in 1912.

Although the commission develop took pleasure in an initial duration of popularity in Washington, the variety of adchoices peaked in the early 1940s at 15 cities. In 1944 Shelton was the last city to embrace the commission create. At the height of its popularity, 38 percent of the state's integrated populace stayed in cities operating under the commission develop. In 2017, Shelton additionally became the last city to abandon the commission form of government, so there are no much longer any kind of city commissions in Washington.

Council-Manager Form

Staunton, Virginia has actually been credited as the initially city to take on the council-manager form of federal government in 1908. The council-manager form consists of an elected city council, which is responsible for policy making, and a expert city manager, appointed by the council, that is responsible for administration. The city manager is directly accountable to, and deserve to be removed by the council. Although mayors in council-manager cities have no governmental or executive duties they carry out serve as the chair of the city council and also frequently play a significant political leadership duty.

It was not until 1943 that the allowing law for the council-manager develop was enacted by the Washington legislature. First class cities had actually the authority to take on this form under their charters, however none had effectively done so (reformers in Seattle made several early on, yet uneffective, attempts). The initially city in Washington to efficiently adopt the council-manager create was the city of Sunnyside in 1948.

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The variety of adoptions of the council-manager develop in Washington has enhanced steadily given that the moment of its advent. After Sunnyside first blazed the trail in 1948, the city of Ellensburg adhered to quickly, adopting the arrangement in the adhering to year. Other cities have followed over the years with 14 adalternatives in the 1950s, seven in the 1960s, salso in the 1970s, and also salso in the 1980s.