The Village of Westchester, Illinois has a Managerial, “Village Board-Manager” form of government, which is a special type of governmental structure provided by Illinois Law.
Your Local Government 101
Board-manager government combines the strong political leadership of elected officials with the strong managerial experience of an appointed manager or administrator. All power and authority to set policy rest with an elected governing body, which includes a president or mayor and members of the board. The governing body in turn hires a nonpartisan manager who has very broad authority to run the government operations.
Born out of the U.S. progressive reform movement at the turn of the 20th century, the board-manager system was designed to combat corruption and unethical activity in local government by promoting effective management within a transparent, responsive, and accountable structure. Since its establishment, the board-manager form has become the most popular structure of local government in the United States. The form is also widely used throughout the world in countries such as Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
The elected board represents their community and develops a long-range vision for its future. They establish policies that affect the overall operation of the community and are responsive to residents’ needs and wishes. To ensure that these policies are carried out and that the entire community is equitably served, the governing body appoints a highly trained professional manager on the basis of his/her education, experience, skills, and abilities (not the person’s political allegiances). If the manager is not responsive to the governing body, the elected board has the authority to terminate the manager at any time.
The manager is hired to serve the board and the community and brings to the local government the benefits of his/her training and experience in administering municipal or county projects and programs. The manager prepares a budget for the boards consideration; recruits, hires, terminates, and supervises government staff; serves as the board chief adviser; and carries out the board’s policies. Board members and residents count on the manager to provide complete and objective information about local operations, discuss the pros and cons of alternatives, and offer an assessment of the long-term consequences of their decisions. Appointed managers serve at the pleasure of the governing body. They can be fired by a majority of the board, consistent with local laws, or any employment agreements they may enter into with the board. The manager makes policy recommendations to the board for consideration and final decision. The manager is bound by whatever action the board takes, and control is always in the hands of the elected representatives of the people.
The board is the community’s legislative and policy-making body. Power is centralized in the elected board, which, for example, approves the budget and determines the tax rate. The board also focuses on the community’s goals, major projects, and such long-term considerations as community growth, land use development, capital improvement and financing, and strategic planning. The board hires a professional manager to implement the administrative responsibilities related to these goals and supervises the manager’s performance
Presidents or mayors in board-manager communities are key political and policy leaders, and their specific duties, responsibilities, and authorities depend on the organization’s charter. In board-manager communities, typically the president or mayor is a voting member of the village board who presides at board meetings, represents the village in intergovernmental relationships, appoints members of committees or citizen advisory boards and commissions (with the advice and consent of the board), assigns agenda items to committees, facilitates communication and understanding between elected and appointed officials, and assists the board in setting goals and advocating policy decisions.
According to the International City/County Management Association, as of 2018, 48% of municipalities in the United States are governed via the board-manager structure. Other forms include mayor-council (38.2%), commission (3.2%), town meeting (8.1%) and representative town meeting (2.3%).