Formal acts of the council become public policy, and you as city manager must always do your best to translate these policies into action. You should do this in a manner to best realize the intent of the council. In some cases, you may not agree with the policy, but it is your duty as city manager to carry out the policy to the best of your ability unless it is illegal or fraudulent.
Over the years, the role of the City/County manager has evolved. While the position perhaps was once more of an implementer of policy, I believe that the modern-day manager has to take on a much more active policy role. The crux of LP Cookingham’s guidepost that the manager is not a policy maker remains true but I believe that in this day and age the manager must take on a heavier policy advisor role due the increasingly complicated nature of local government issues while striving to maintaining political neutrality and implementing the will of the council.
The issues that local governments have to address are more complicated and technical than ever before. Councils are dealing less with ideological issues and more with decisions of which Internet provider to work with or what technological programs invest in for improvements in efficiency. Since the manager works closely with staff, many of whom are subject experts, the manager has a unique base of knowledge and perspective to share with the council. The manager should not make policy but rather advise the council on the implications of different decisions and help guide them through a process that allows them to make the decision they deem best. On more technical issues the manager may want to be more involved in policy advising then in other issues.
But the manager must completely respect the will of the council and remain politically neutral. The manger needs to know her/his council and how they view different issues. While not avoiding the important issues and potential solutions, the manager must be careful to work with the council in a way that allows them to be a sound policy adviser while developing and maintaining strong council relations.
Once the council makes a decision, the role of the manager is implement the policy in a way that most closely reflects the will of the council. They have to be careful to ensure that even if they disagree with the council decision, that any disagreement remains professional and as private as possible.
In summary the crux of this guidepost remains but managers are increasingly taking on the role of policy adviser in addition to policy implementer.