While the City of Cedar Rapids was incorporated in 1849, it operated under the Commission Form of Government from April 6, 1908 through Dec 31, 2005. Under this form, elected officials held both legislative and executive powers by serving as commissioners operating city departments and as members of the city council.
During a special citywide election on June 14, 2005, the citizens of Cedar Rapids voted to adopt a Home Rule Charter, which changed the form of government to the Council-Manager Form. This form of government took effect on January 1, 2006.
Under this form, the Cedar Rapids City Council consists of eight council members plus the mayor. The mayor and three council members are elected at large. The remaining five council members are elected by voters in each of five districts. The council operates on a part-time basis and meets regularly with City staff.
The city council appoints a full-time city manager to carry out the policies it establishes and to oversee the day-to-day administrative operations of city government. The manager is also responsible for preparing the budget and hiring and firing personnel. Each city department is managed by a department director, who answers to the city manager.
The mayor and council, as a collegial body, are responsible for setting policy, approving the budget and determining the tax rate. The mayor is recognized as the political head of the municipality but is a member of the legislative body and does not have the power to veto legislative actions.