Council-Manager Form of Government

The City of Arcata was incorporated in 1858. At that time, the separately elected City Clerk was the administrative officer for municipal affairs and the separately elected City Treasurer handled all fiscal matters. The City Council established Arcata as a Council-Manager form of government in 1958 and hired its first City Manager that year. Shortly thereafter, the elected City Clerk and City Treasurer positions were re-established as appointed positions.

Arcata is a General Law City which means it operates under applicable general laws of the State of California. Arcata is vested with all the powers of incorporated cities as set forth in the California Constitution and the applicable California State laws as set forth in the State Government Code, Sections 34000, et seq. Conversely, there are a number of cities within California that are "charter cities" that have adopted local provisions establishing the basic governing procedures for their local governments.

The “General Law” type of government consists of an elected City Council and a City Manager, who is elected by the Council. The City Council also appoints the City Attorney. As described in the Arcata Municipal Code and California Government Code Sections 34000 et seq., certain responsibilities are vested in the City Council and the City Manager.

This form of government prescribes that a City Council's role is that of a legislative policy-making body that determines the local laws that regulate community life and public policy, and gives direction to the City Manager to administer the affairs of the city government in a businesslike and prudent manner.