SIC 9111

This category covers offices of chief executives and their advisory and interdepartmental committees and commissions.

Executive offices are those held and directly controlled by mayors, governors, city managers, county supervisors, and the president of the United States. They encompass heads of local, state, and national governments. They formulate and project policy, prepare budgets, handle major emergencies, appoint and nominate leaders and judges, and work to improve the lot of constituents, among other activities.

NAICS Code(s)

921110 (Executive Offices)

Organization and Structure

According to a 2003 report released by the United States Conference of Mayors and Global Insight, local metropolitan areas drive the nation's economy. They accounted for 85 percent of national output and 87 percent of the nation's economic growth from 1992 to 2002. In 2002, there were 87,900 identified units of government operating in the United States, comprising 87,849 local governments, 50 state governments, and the federal government. Local governments were further subclassified as 3,043 county governments; 19,431 municipal governments; 16,506 town/township governments; 13,522 school districts; and 35,356 special districts. State and local governments took in approximately $1.3 trillion dollars in revenues in 2001 and employed 307,000 persons (full-time equivalents) for government administration alone.

Local. The three basic types of municipal government structures in the United States are mayor-council, commission, and council-manager. Although they typically oversee relatively small geographical units, local governments may exercise great control over the daily lives of their constituents. They are charged, for example, with providing fire and police protection, waste disposal, and other services.

In the mayor-council government, the mayor is elected as the executive and usually controls the council, which is also elected. The council formulates ordinances that the mayor enforces. Some systems use a weak-mayor system, in which the mayor is subordinate to the council. Examples of large cities with mayor-council organizations are Boston, New York, Chicago, and Seattle.

In contrast, a commission government consists of several commissioners elected to serve as heads of city departments. The presiding commissioner usually acts as the mayor. Cities with commissioners include Tulsa and Salt Lake City.

A council-manager government has an elected council. The council hires a city manager to run various city departments. The city manager is the chief executive of the city and is ultimately responsible for running the government and advising the council. The council also elects a mayor to chair the council and officiate at major functions and events. Des Moines and Cincinnati have council-manager governments.

The United States Conference of Mayors was organized to improve municipal government through cooperation with the federal government. It is comprised of about 1,183 mayors from cities with a population of more than 30,000. According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2002 , the largest cities by population were New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and San Diego.

State. The 50 state governments are structured similarly to the government of the United States. Each state has an executive, legislative, and judicial branch, as well as its own constitution. The executive branch is headed by a governor whom the voters elect. Below the governor is the lieutenant governor. Among the primary duties of the governor's office are the preparation of a state budget and the guidance of new legislation. In addition, a governor acts as the commander-in-chief of the state militia (national guard) during times of peace.

In accomplishing his or her responsibilities, the governor enjoys the power to summon special sessions of the legislature, veto legislation, and issue pardons and commute sentences for most crimes. Although the executive powers afforded most governors may seem extensive, their authority is often diminished by the existence of independent agencies over which they have little control.

Most governors are elected to four-year terms, but several states have a limit of two years. Other states set no limit on the number of terms a governor may serve. They may be forcibly removed from office, however, through impeachment or recall.

National. The United States has a presidential government, which is distinguished by the fact that it is practically independent of the federal legislative branch. This contrasts with cabinet governments, utilized in many European nations, in which the executive body is drawn from and responsible to the legislative arm. As a result, the president is solely responsible to the voters and theoretically is free from congressional control.

The president has expansive powers granted by the Constitution. Paramount are his duties as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the authority to declare war and to make treaties, the ability to veto legislation, and his role as ceremonial head of state. In addition to the formal powers provided by the Constitution, the office of the president has evolved into a much more powerful government entity than was conceived by the founding fathers. The president is responsible for conducting foreign affairs, appointing judges and other officials, and initiating and developing legislation. Furthermore, he has effectively become a guardian of the economy and is held largely responsible for factors such as the employment rate and standard of living.

The president is chosen through an electoral college. Voters choose electors on the state level who have been nominated by political parties and have pledged to vote for that party's candidate. Each state is allowed a number of electors equal to the combined total of its representatives and senators. The candidate who receives the majority of electoral votes receives the presidency. In the elections of 1800 and 1824, no candidate won a majority, so the House of Representatives selected the president.

The president serves a term of four years and is limited to two elected terms and a total of 10 years in office. To be eligible for the office, he or she must be a natural-born citizen of at least 35 years of age, have resided in the United States for 14 or more years, and not have a felony conviction.

The office of the president has more than 17 offices. Among them are the office of the vice president; the White House office, which encompasses counselors, staff, and assistants; the National Security Council, which advises on military policy; the Office of Homeland Security; the Council of Economic Advisers; and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The OMB is one of the most consequential executive offices. It evaluates, formulates, and coordinates management procedures and program objectives within federal departments and agencies. It also advises the president on relative legislation and proposals.

Although not clearly defined in the Constitution, the cabinet is described in the Twenty-Fifth Amendment as "the principal officers of the executive departments." An institution of tradition and custom dating back to George Washington, the cabinet is composed primarily of the heads of the 14 executive departments. It also may include the vice president and heads of other federal departments and agencies, as well as other individuals selected by the president. Cabinet appointments are subject to confirmation by the Senate. The Cabinet's sole function is to advise the president.


Although very few executive positions are available at the state or federal level, numerous opportunities to serve in executive positions exist within local governments. Many officials on the local level, such as mayors, do not hold full-time, year-round positions. They often have jobs, are retired, or have household responsibilities. Executives on the local, state, and federal level reach their positions in a number of ways. Many are attorneys, though public figures from all walks of life may be able to secure enough votes to capture an office.

City and county managers who are appointed by councils or commissions typically have a more definite career path than elected officials. Although they come from a variety of backgrounds, many have a master's degree in public administration or business. Managers of larger jurisdictions are expected to exhibit expertise in financial, administrative, and personnel matters associated with public management. Because they often are appointed by revolving administrations, city and county managers also need keen political and interpersonal skills that will help to keep them employed. Job growth opportunities are very limited. Many existing local and municipal offices are expected to try to reduce expenses and personnel. Opportunities are greatest in regions with growing populations, particularly in the Southwest. In addition, some communities have been hiring city managers for the first time in an effort to boost the efficiency of their government.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 54,000 top executives at the legislative level in 2000. Median salaries for legislators ranged from $12,530 to $34,720 that year. However, some earned as little as $11,560 and others made as much as $62,860. Salaries for county managers averaged $107,500 in 2000, whereas city manager salaries averaged $92,338. According to the Bureau, the Council of State Government's Book of the States, 2000-2001 reported that gubernatorial salaries ranged from $65,000 to $179,000 (plus a vehicle and an official residence).

Further Reading

"The Executive Office of the President." 16 May 2003. Available from .

"Timeline." American City & County, 34 November 1999.

United States Conference of Mayors. "About the United States Conference of Mayors." 16 May 2003. Available from .

——. The Role of Metro Areas in the U.S. Economy: Employment Outlook. 22 January 2003. Available from .

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-2003 Edition, Washington: U.S. Department of Labor, 2002. Available from .

U.S. Census Bureau. Statistical Abstract of the United States:2002. Available from .

Ward, Janet. "Report Shows Metro Areas Drive Nation's Economy." American City & County, 4 December 1999.

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