W. Brian Hiatt
W. Brian Hiatt has served as Concord's City Manager since 1998. He came to Concord from Hickory where he served as Assistant City Manager for over 10 years. Brian holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in History and Government Service from Appalachian State University where he was a summa cum laude graduate, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Active in the community, Brian serves as President of the Academic Learning Center and is on the Board of Directors for the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation and the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County. He currently serves as Chairman of the Cabarrus County United Way. He is a Past-President of both the Concord Rotary Club, where he was named Rotarian of the Year in 2012, and the Lake Hickory Rotary Club. In 2002, Brian served as the Chairman of the United Way Campaign in Cabarrus County. He is also a former board member of Hospice of Cabarrus County. He is currently the Past President of the North Carolina City and County Management Association. Brian was a member of the Board of Directors of the NC League of Municipalities from 2004 through 2008 and now serves on its General Government Legislative Action Committee. Having a desire to see young people better educated in government, Brian previously served as Chairman of the Civic Education Committee of the North Carolina City and County Managers Association and on the Steering Committee of the North Carolina Civic Education Consortium. He is recognized as a Credentialed City Manager by the International City and County Management Association. Brian is married to Julie, and they have two grown children, Andrew and Erin.
Life, Well Run
In 2014 there will be an anniversary celebrated in North Carolina that will go unnoticed by many, when the International City and County Management Association (ICMA) holds its one hundredth annual conference
in Charlotte. Thousands of attendees from across the United States and many other countries will come to Charlotte in September. The selection of Charlotte as the site for this important milestone was not by accident as the council-manager form of government has a long and rich history in North Carolina.
The council-manager form of government
was born out of the government reform movement at the beginning of the twentieth century. Many business and political leaders were concerned about the hiring and financial abuses taking place in local government at the time. Some of the more visible problems were occurring in larger communities controlled by political “bosses” who used local government to reward family members and supporters in order to stay in power, and in some cases to enhance their own pocketbooks. Business leaders in a few communities started talking about how local governments could be run in a more business-like fashion with an emphasis on sound financial management, and hiring and retaining workers based on merit. The idea of the governing body appointing a non-partisan and non-political professional manager to oversee operations was born.
In 1908, Staunton, Virginia
created the first position that legally defined, by ordinance, the broad authority and responsibility associated with today’s professional local government manager. Sumter, South Carolina
was the first city to adopt a charter incorporating the basic principles of council-manager government in 1912. Cities in North Carolina started to take notice quickly with Hickory
taking steps to adopt plans in 1913. North Carolina counties were also leaders with Durham County
and Robeson County
adopting plans in the 1930’s.
Today almost all municipalities in North Carolina with populations greater than five thousand have adopted the council-manager form of government. Even many smaller communities that use the mayor-council form employ a full time administrator to handle daily operations. Under the system today the power and authority to ultimately set policy rests with elected officials, such as a mayor or chairperson and members of a community’s council, commission, or board. However, the governing body appoints a nonpartisan, nonpolitical professional manager that serves at the pleasure of the governing body. That manager is responsible for:
- developing the annual budget for elected officials to debate, sometimes adjust, and approve
- delivering the services supported by the resources provided through the budget
- planning strategically for community and economic development
- working with the elected officials to develop policies and programs
- managing the government staff (hiring and evaluating), budgets, programs, and capital projects
- developing ways to communicate with community members and business interests
- ensuring that laws and policies are enforced fairly throughout the community and that the government runs ethically and transparently
The manager is bound by the actions of the city council, and power always remains in the hands of the elected representatives.
In 1924, ICMA developed a stringent Code of Ethics
for professional local government managers, to which its members subscribe and ICMA enforces. The Code spells out principles of equity, transparency, integrity, stewardship of public resources, political neutrality and respect for the rights and responsibilities of elected officials and residents. While the Code has evolved over the years, it remains the rock that the profession is built upon.
ICMA has also started a new initiative called Life, Well Run. The purpose of this program is to educate all people on the role of professional managers in working with elected officials. This program also serves to educate young people on careers in local government management, as there is a need for bright and energetic young people to enter the field to keep professional management strong as baby boomers reach retirement age.
With challenges at other levels of government in the United States, it is important for citizens and business people to understand how local elected officials seek to deliver services in a way that avoids gridlock and with continued fiscal responsibility. To learn more about how city and county managers play a vital role in supporting elected officials, you can visit lifewellrun.org