The position may report to the city manager, mayor or city council when the city attorney is on staff. Where the city attorney fits within the organization is most often spelled out in the city charter. The city attorney has no staff reporting to him or her except perhaps an administrative assistant in smaller cities. The city attorney supervises a legal department composed mostly of attorneys and legal secretaries in larger cities. The finance director oversees budgeting and accounting operations for the city. The finance director touches all departments within the city like the city attorney. The finance director often reports directly to the city manager rather than an assistant city manager because of this broad scope of responsibility. he finance director consistently updates revenue and expense data and modifies projections as appropriate. The city manager relies on the finance director to ensure that the city will have enough money throughout the year to keep up with planned expenses. The finance department works with other departments on large projects. Everyone has to know what it will cost, no matter how great an idea may be. The police chief is the most high-profile department head. Police departments deal with dicey situations that often become the lead story on the late local news and in the morning newspaper. 


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Police departments have their own public information staff because of the volume of media requests and other public relations tasks in larger cities. Often the most intensely scrutinized situations a police chief must deal with are officer-involved shootings.  The police chief must begin analyzing whether or not the officer acted appropriately as soon as information about the situation becomes public. Officer-involved shootings often spark racial tensions in a community which only add to the pressure of doing a speedy and thorough investigation of the officer’s actions. The police chief has staff working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Tragedy can strike at any time. The police chief can get a phone call saying that one of his staff has been seriously injured or killed at any moment. Like the police chief, the fire chief has a 24-hour staff whose members put their lives in danger to protect others. The fire department responds to medical emergencies, traffic accidents, natural disasters and fires. Fire departments have strong lines of authority and emergency management protocols. The highest ranking department member at an emergency situation takes control. He or she assumes control of the emergency response whenever the fire chief is on the scene. The public works director oversees departments that many citizens think of when they think about the operations of city government. Of course people first think of fire and police departments, but then they think about water, wastewater, streets and garbage collection. Public works is an umbrella under which many cities put their utility and maintenance departments. The planning director helps the city council determine and communicate its vision about what the city will look like over time and makes sure that the daily decisions of the planning department are consistent with that vision.