Columbia, SC — I worked in government for 20 years, mostly in municipal government, under both a strong-mayor and administrator-council structure. There is no comparison.
With strong mayor, you get one-man rule. A mayor with the power of firing and hiring can and does fire long-time employees with years of experience to replace them with his cronies without experience. The city leaves itself open to the possibility of having an inexperienced top executive every four or eight years who must learn the ropes before ever becoming effective.
On the other hand, an administrator is usually someone with years of professional experience who has earned government administration degrees. Having an administrator removes the possibility of cronyism by one individual. The administrator is accountable to the council, which means the council has some worth.
Note that strong mayor has no secondary authority with its name. The mayor acts alone. He is in total control of how the city operates and is accountable only to voters every four years. He becomes a czar. City government is not like state or federal government, where there are checks and balances.
It comes down to this: Do you want inexperience running your city every four years — or possibly eight years — or do you want a responsible, knowledgeable individual to run the city without interruption and accountable to the council? There just doesn’t seem to be a more intelligent means of running the city.
Robert D. White