City of Shawnee

Councilmember Role

City Council members attend three to four meetings a month. Regular City Council meetings are held at 6:00 p.m. and Council Committee meetings directly follow on the second and fourth Mondays of each month in the Shawnee council chambers. Occasionally, Council members may be asked to attend additional Committee of the Whole Meetings. These will most occur generally in the late spring and early summer during the budget process.

An important councilmember role is that of a community leader who initiates and directs civic policy promoting the welfare and development of Shawnee. The Municipal Code charges councilmembers with the role of policy makers. Collectively, the council determines current and future city goals and policy and decides the direction to achieve these goals.

Some councilmembers view their role as that of ombudsmen and therefore focus primarily on constituent services. In this capacity, a councilmember acts as a connection between his/her constituency and the city administration. This ombudsman role is an important component of the ward system.

The League of Kansas Municipalities offers some suggestions for effective and enjoyable public service. It is recommended that these guidelines be reviewed periodically to help avoid problems. An elected local official will probably be asked to resolve problems created by others. Conscientiously following these guidelines may help prevent difficult situations. The League guidelines (as amended to fit Shawnee) are as follows:

  1. Learn all about Shawnee, its operation, and its financing. Do homework. Know city ordinances and about the Shawnee Municipal Code.
  2. Take the budget preparation job seriously. The budget is the biggest policy development tool available to govern a city. The budget determines what the city does and does not do for the coming year, and will influence decisions and actions for future years.
  3. Don't act as a committee of one. Governing a city requires a team effort, both practically and legally.
  4. Establish Shawnee Policy Statements. Written policy statements let the public, the city staff, and the governing body itself know where they stand. Not only do policy statements help the governing body govern, writing them also provides a process to develop group consensus. "That's the way it’s always been done" is not good enough to either stay out of trouble or to get things done.
  5. Make decisions based on public policy, and be consistent. Treat similar situations similarly.
  6. Don't be stampeded into action. Don't be misled by the strong demands of special interest groups. Many groups will, in their own self-interest, pressure the council for action to be taken to their benefit. However, be cautious, and examine issues carefully. The job of the councilmember is to find the long-term public interest of the community as a whole, and not all groups represent the community as a whole.
  7. Don't bypass the system! Governing body members should stick to policy making and avoid personal involvement in the day-to-day operations of the city. Allow the city manager to act as the administrative official for the city.
  8. Individuals can not make policy alone. Councilmembers should not make promises they can't deliver! Most decisions and actions require majority approval of the governing body.
  9. Be concerned with the long-term future. Avoid taking short-term gains at the expense of long-term losses.
  10. Have goals and objectives. Think about both the short term and the long term future.
  11. Remember that you represent all of the people of the community, not just neighbors and friends.
  12. Don't let others bypass your system. Insist that people such as bond salesmen or equipment suppliers first work with city staff. If direct contact with governing body members is advisable, this should be with the governing body as a whole and not on a one-on-one basis.