City Managers

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Main Street, Dayton, Ohio.jpg
View of Main Street in Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio, ca. 1886-1888. This photograph is part of a collection compiled by Henry Howe while researching the 1889 edition of "Historical Collections of Ohio."

During the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, to eliminate the power of city bosses, many municipalities established the position of city manager.

Americans were becoming more and more concerned about corruption within the political process in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These concerns contributed to the growth of Progressivism, a major reform movement of this era. One reform instituted by Progressives in many states was to replace mayors with city managers. Often city bosses were influential in getting their candidates elected to city government. Progressives believed that connections to city bosses and their political machines often kept mayors from acting in the public's interest. In order to get rid of the corruption within city politics, reformers advocated that cities hire a professional, known as a city manager, to run the government. This person would have no political obligations since he/she was not elected. Typically, city managers were college educated, receiving special training in city operations and business management.

Dayton became the first city in Ohio and the first major city in the nation to adopt a city manager. Soon, Springfield, Ashtabula, and Sandusky followed Dayton's example. More than thirty other Ohio cities eventually made the transition from an elected mayor to a city manager, although not all kept this new form of government in the long-term. Both Akron and Cleveland experimented briefly with city managers but chose to return to mayors.

See Also