What Does a County Manager Do?
A county manager is an administrative official at the county level who manages daily operations. It is usually necessary to have an advanced degree to serve in this position, along with some experience in county administration. The job has a very large scope and may involve long hours as well as considerable public accountability. As the administrative face of the county, the county manager reports to elected officials as well as members of the public with concerns about county policies and activities.
This administrative official must oversee all county departments. Counties typically administer agencies to handle issues like child welfare, traffic safety, and building. The county manager checks on these departments, participates in hiring and firing decisions, and works with agency representatives on policy recommendations and related topics. This requires knowledge of what each department does, who works in every department, and how the departments operate. Some county managers may come from a background in a county department and thus have extra familiarity with its operations.
County managers also maintain administrative staffs to support their work and that of other county officials. They coordinate with a human resources department on staffing topics from arranging leave for pregnant employees to hiring new staff. County managers also typically work closely with accounting departments to address funding, budgetary issues, grant applications, and related topics. Networking financially is important, as the county cannot run out of money for daily operations or it will be unable to meet the needs of the public.
Public officials may expect a briefing from the county manager. This can occur at events like board of supervisors meetings as well as in private communications between the county manager and elected officials. At public meetings, this member of the county administration may be called upon for formal testimony related to a topic of discussion at the meeting. Staff members may want to know, for example, which county departments are most in need of funding, or how the county makes hiring decisions.
In addition to working in an office setting, the county manager also travels. She may have access to a number of agencies in the same building but could need to travel to various sites around the county. She must be mobile for meetings with personnel who may not be able to come into the office. The hours can get long in a civil emergency such as a bad weather warning or a security threat, and the county manager must be prepared to stay late or come in early as needed.
@Terrificli -- County managers are accountable to the public as they generally have to answer to the quorum court (or whatever the legislative branch of the county government happens to be).
If they are not elected, county managers are not directly accountable to voters but they do have to answer to people who rely on votes to stay in office.
A popular alternative to the county manager is the county judge. The county judge is typically elected and an advanced degree is usually desirable but certainly not mandatory.
A big difference is the election process which makes the county judge more accountable to the public (or, some have argued that).
There are other examples, of course, but it is very common to see either an appointed county manager or an elected county judge heading up the executive branch.
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