The 7 habits of highly effective city councilors & aldermen

Find out what the 7 habits are, and what you need to know if you are a city councilor or alderman, or are thinking of becoming one


Being a city councilor or alderman takes passion and a vision for local government, as well as courage. But cultivating the best habits makes councilors more effective at representing and advocating for the communities they represent.

Gov1 has compiled the seven habits that make city councilors and aldermen effective.

Habit #1: You are anchored in the community

It may seem obvious, but it's all in your approach.

"You need to strive to better your community as if you plan to stay there the rest of your life," advises Rick Staigle, PE, PTOE, alderman, Meadows Place, Texas.

Habit #2: You focus on moving the city forward rather than a specific agenda

Most political campaigns involve platforms so candidates can debate, but don’t run for city council with an ax to grind.

Focus on the larger goals of moving your municipality forward.

Habit #3: You understand the council’s, and the city’s, legal and financial responsibilities

Councilors and aldermen should understand the need for local governments to meet payroll, and what their liabilities and vulnerabilities are.

The necessary skills include:

  • Understanding a balance sheet
  • Comprehending profits and losses
  • Setting priorities
  • Preparing a budget and monitoring its progress throughout a fiscal year

Habit #4: You maintain good communication with residents and the local press

It takes honesty, common sense and proper time-management to communicate with residents, local organizations and press--including bloggers.

Habit #5: You refrain from publicly criticizing an individual official or employee

Even in scandal, there are protocols to follow with regard to elected officials and local government employees.

Although you may question the facts or opinions of those you disagree with, maintain decorum and diplomacy in one-on-one communications, public forums and press interviews.

Habit #6: You respect the city manager’s leadership, as well as other leaders and staff that operate the city

The day-to-day function of the city is something councilors and aldermen must consider from a high-level perspective, but never lose sight of the points-of-view of those that operate the city daily as their primary role.

Habit #7: You invite feedback because you strive to be a good listener

As councilors and aldermen, you are on the front lines of fielding community and neighborhood concerns, issues, grievances, etc... Inviting constructive feedback is essential to improving on your performance as an elected local representative.

However, as many advised Gov1 in developing the 7 Habits of Highly Effective City Councilors & Aldermen, you will never please all of the people, all of the time.

What habits are critical to your role as a city councilor or civic leader? Please reach out and let us know at editor@efficientgov.com.

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