City Government Guide

Get an overview of the City of Durham’s council-manager form of government, and the role of City Council.

Understanding the Council-Manager Form of Government

In Durham’s council-manager form of government, voters elect the City Council which appoints the City Manager to run the operations of the organization. The City Manager role includes managing the budget, overseeing personnel, and making recommendations to council.

City Hall, 101 City Hall Plaza

City Hall Exterior Entrance

The council-manager format is similar to the organization of a business corporation: voters (stockholders) elect the council (board of directors), including the mayor (chairman of the board), which, in turn, appoints the manager (chief administrative officer).

The Role of City Council

City Council is the legislative and policy-making body for Durham and is the final authority on city matters.

The council:

City Council Chambers

City Council seating in Council Chambers

Council Composition

City Council has 7 members: 3 representing specific wards, 3 at-large, and the Mayor. Terms are staggered, with nonpartisan elections every 2 years.

Voting and the Ward System

The residency ward system of selecting City Council members provides representation from different areas of the city. The concept means the Council candidate must live in the ward he or she seeks to represent. The candidate is, however, elected by all city voters. Wards do not affect where a resident votes or which candidate(s) a resident can vote for.

Council Meetings and Public Participation

City Council holds public meetings and work sessions to discuss and make decisions on City business and issues, and to hear public comment.

Citizen Boards, Committees and Commissions


City Council appoints residents to serve on 28 boards, committees, and commissions that address varied aspects of Durham’s quality of life – from open spaces and trails to historic preservation, to workforce development.

Stay Informed

An important step in civic participation is to stay informed on City of Durham activities and issues. Below are several resources to learn about current City news and events.