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South Valley Journal

Government 101: Form of government in cities

Aug 23, 2021 10:35AM ● By Erin Dixon

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Editor’s note: Government 101 is a monthly column breaking down different aspects of local municipalities around the valley. 

In Utah, there are two possible types of government: Council-Manager or Council-Mayor.

There’s a possible third type of government, a Charter, but none of the cities in which City Journals publishes has one. 

Council-Mayor

The mayor is elected every four years and represents the entire city. They are the head of the executive branch, like a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) in a private business. All department heads within the city report to them. 

When a new mayor takes a seat, they can hire or fire department heads, but council advice and consent is required.

City council members are also elected every four years, though usually not at the same time. This prevents the city from having an entirely new council at once. Each council member represents a portion of the city (district), or the city as a whole (at-large).

The council is the decision making body but does not have any power over city staff. The council makes decisions for the city: budget, property, code, planning and zoning, etc. The mayor may be invited to attend, speak and contribute. 

Council meetings, usually twice a month, are run by city council members. The mayor is responsible for carrying out the decisions made by the council. The mayor can veto if they disagree with any legislation passed by the council. The council elects its own chair who conducts the public meetings.  

Council members do not have any administrative powers to direct staff. 

Council-Manager

The mayor is elected and represents the entire city. They are part of the council. 

In this form of government, the council appoints a city manager to be the CEO. Department heads answer to the manager and the manager can hire or fire department heads, though hires are subject to council advice and consent. 

Council members are elected every four years, though usually not all at the same time. In some cities, the mayor votes with each decision. In others, the mayor only casts a vote if there is a tie. The mayor is chair and the face of the council.  

The manager attends council meetings, gives reports and advises council in decision making.

Council meetings, usually twice a month, is run by the mayor. The city manager is responsible for carrying out the decisions made by the council. The mayor does not have veto power.  

Council members do not have any administrative powers to direct staff. 


Cottonwood Heights: Council-Manager, mayor always votes

Draper: Council-Manager, mayor is tie breaker

Herriman: Council-Manager, mayor always votes

Holladay: Council-Manager, mayor always votes

Midvale: Council-Manager, mayor is tie breaker

Millcreek: Council-Manager, mayor always votes

Murray: Council-Mayor

Riverton: Council-Manager, mayor is tie breaker

Sandy: Council-Mayor

South Jordan: Council-Manager, mayor always votes

South Salt Lake: Council-Mayor

Sugar House: Council-Mayor, governed by SLC

Taylorsville: Council-Mayor

West Jordan: Council-Mayor

West Valley: Council-Manager, mayor always votes