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Council, mayor and city manager look to specify duties
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 Although Covington’s City Charter contains several pages about the structure of its government, very little information about the actual roles and duties of the city manager, council and mayor are contained in the 48-year-old document.

The Covington City Council set out to better define its role at its strategic planning retreat, and it plans to build the list it created into the city charter to make the changes formal.

Covington has a city manager type of government, where the city manager is the top daily administrative official, as opposed to Newton County, where the chairman is elected by the public to that role.

As such, the city manager is the one who essentially runs the city and reports to the council and mayor, who appoint him and evaluate his performance. Outside of spelling out basic duties, like voting on ordinances, bylaws and regulations and forming committees, the council is not given much direction.

That has led to some discussion and even confusion in past years about what a council member should be doing. The mayor’s position is similar, because while some of its formal duties are spelled out, many of the practical responsibilities are not included.

Below are some of the suggestions of roles and responsibilities that will be added into the charter. However, the council will review the changes again before taking any action and the city attorney will have to adapt them into a legally proper manner. City Manager Steve Horton suggested the council make changes to the charter, a lengthier process that requires multiple steps and votes, in order to make the roles more formally binding. If the council simply passed a separate policy of roles, a future council could easily abolish it.

City Council

The council is the body that represents the desire of the citizens and sets public policy for the city. The council members agreed they are not responsible for the day-to-day operation of the city and should not take problems directly to city employees in most cases but should work with, and go through, the city manager. Here are some of the items the council decided to add:

— set visionary direction and strategic policies for city

— serve as a visible role model for the community and promote a positive image

— review and adopt the budget; issues bonds

— assess the need and demand for city services along with city manager and directors

— plan for economic development and the general well-being of the community

— stay abreast of internal and external trends in the region and state

— adopt, amend and follow various strategic, comprehensive, transportation and other plans

— set zoning rules, grant alcohol licenses, exercise eminent domain


Although the mayor is a part-time representative, this position is seen as the public leader of the city and the person who participates in formal presentations. She also leads the council meetings and attempts to facilitate discussion between council members and:

— appoints members to city committees

— represents the city and its policy to the community and region

— helps the council make informed decisions by helping to provide necessary information

— has the power to veto (veto can be overridden by majority council vote)

— signs all approved contracts, ordinances and resolutions on behalf of city

— serves as a member on Industrial Development Authority, East Metro Board of Health and county library board, among others

City Manager

Under Covington’s structure, the city manager oversees all other city employees and is the go-between for the council and city employees. Covington recently appointed three directors over the areas of administrative services, public safety and public services, who serve directly below and report to Horton. The council, mayor and Horton decided he was also often responsible for:

— converting the strategic plan and direction into operations that can be carried out by the city employees

— keeping abreast of changes and events in the city

— serving as the city’s public information officer

— earning the trust of his team

— resolving conflicts between departments

— serving as mediator to resolve conflicts between elected officials

— establishing, abolishing or merging departments, agencies and employee positions

— monitoring performance of directors

— carrying out plans approved by council, including budget and ordinances

— keeping the council and mayor informed and working closely with them

— remaining neutral on matters of politics

— interacting with the community and serving as the liaison with outside governmental agencies