Every year, local government becomes more complex, and local leaders must address challenges including legislative and regulatory changes, scarce resources and increased service demands, workforce development needs, and rapidly evolving technology. At the same time, city officials strive to implement innovative programs and foster smart, livable communities and maintain their city’s unique character and sense of place. To help meet these challenges, it is important for municipal elected officials to understand the basics of city government.
GMA is pleased to offer this comprehensive online resource for mayors and councilmembers, which is designed to make your job easier. The Handbook is a handy reference guide covering topics such as building relationships with your fellow elected officials and staff, local government management and forms of government, ethics, service provision, revenue sources, and intergovernmental relations.
By providing this publication as an online guidebook, GMA can update content as needed to reflect changes in the laws and add information about new topics and best practices, so local leaders will always have access to the latest information.
Please note that this handbook is provided for general informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and may not apply to your specific situation. Municipal officials should consult with their city attorney before taking any action based on the content of this publication.
This handbook is the result of the combined efforts of city officials, staff of state agencies, local government consultants, Carl Vinson Institute of Government staff, and GMA staff. We would like to thank all of the individuals who worked on this project.
GMA staff who contributed to the chapters of this text are:
Larry Hanson, Executive Director
Charlotte Davis, Governmental Relations Associate
Amy Henderson, Director, Communications & Marketing
Perry Hiott, Director, Community Development & Financial Services
Justin Kirnon, Former Senior Governmental Relations Associate
Holger Loewendorf, Research Analyst
Kay Love, Municipal Operations Consultant
Susan Moore, General Counsel
Rusi Patel, Senior Associate General Counsel
Becky Taylor, Director, Federal Relations & Research
Joel Wiggins, Governmental Relations Associate
Other contributors to this resource are:
Marty Allen, City Manager, City of Suwanee
Michael B. Brown, Principal, Brown Pelican Consulting, LLC
William F. Bruton, Jr., City Manager, City of Marietta
James V. Burgess, Jr., Attorney at Law
Sabrina Wiley Cape, CFO, Connect Logistics, Inc.
James Elliott, City Attorney, City of Warner Robins
Dan Flynn, Police Chief, City of Marietta
Jackie Gibbs, Fire Chief (ret.), City of Marietta
R. Read Gignilliat, Attorney, Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson, LLP
James Grabowsky, Associate Planner, Department of Community Affairs (DCA)
Dr. Margaret S. Herrman, Director, Herrman Group, LLC
Brian Johnson, Esq., Director, Office of Planning & Environmental Management, DCA
Dr. Brant Keller, Public Works Director, City of Griffin
Keith Lee, Finance Director, City of Roswell
Melody Marlowe, Finance Director, City of Dahlonega
Mark Rice, Chief Building Official, City of Marietta
Elizabeth Smith, Senior Planner/Regional Programs Coordinator, DCA
Sarah Ward, CEO and Preservation Principal, Ward Architecture + Preservation
Malik Watkins, Public Service Associate, CVIOG
Jon West, Local & Intergovernmental Senior Planning Coordinator, DCA
Annaka Woodruff, Program Manager, Appalachian Regional Commission, DCA
Cameron Yearty, Community Development Specialist, DCA
We are indebted to Holger Loewendorf, GMA Research Analyst, who managed the compilation of the online and print versions of this handbook and served as its primary editor.
Additional editors include:
Korey Dickens, Manager, Content Development
Rosemary Walk, Research Intern
Philip Dobbs, Manager, Institutional Identity
Georgia Municipal Association