Confusion common over differences between City Administrator, Manager



Though both city managers and administrators are tasked with running the administrative duties of a city that are otherwise tasked to the mayor, the two terms can potentially refer to a difference in authority.

The majority of respondents to a recent phone survey by The Independent of Type A General Law cities in Texas reported having a city administrator or a city manager.

A Houston-based municipal law expert, Attorney Art Pertile with the firm Olson & Olson, said the two job titles are often used interchangeably in casual conversation (as was often done by the respondents to the survey), but that a city manager holds more authority.

Adding to the confusion, however, reports from the Texas Municipal League show that the city administrator position can also be called a city manager with no difference in their legal grounding.

The potential difference comes from whether the city manager refers to the position created in Chapter 22 of the Texas Local Government Code, or Chapter 25.

Chapter 22 provides for Liberty Hill’s city administrator, and in cases such as the City of Leander, their city manager.

The position for the more narrowly defined “city manager” can be created by Chapter 25 of the code, which outlines a municipal plan that cities can enact by election. The plan vests the authority of the chief executive officer into the position, who then has the power to hire and fire municipal officers.

A report on different government types from TML, which shows Liberty Hill legal counsel Laura Mueller as a co-author, reads:

“Adopting the city manager plan does not change the basic governmental framework of a city operating under the commission or aldermanic form of government. Rather, it is an administrative mechanism added to the basic structure.”

It continues, “However, any city can appoint a city manager, city administrator, or other managerial employee, regardless of whether the city has adopted Chapter 25 of the Local Government Code.”

Scott Houston, deputy executive director and general counsel for TML, explained in an interview with the Glen Rose Current that while cities usually call the position from Chapter 22 a city administrator, “it can be called whatever the council wished.”

All city administrators are created through Chapter 22. Some that are called “city managers” also refer to this position, and other “city managers” play a role as created through Chapter 25.

Houston told The Independent Wednesday that a relatively small number of Texas cities are using a city manager as defined by Chapter 25.

“We don’t have an accurate count because we’ve never surveyed that question,” he said. “I would guess no more than 20.”