KC’s Council-Manager government: How it works

From pen on paper to jackhammers on concrete.

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What’s happening on the 29th floor of City Hall?

Photo by KCtoday

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New streets + bike lanes are popping up all over Kansas City. Did you ever wonder how real-life public projects like that happen? It all starts at City Hall.

Maybe the name Mayor Quinton Lucas is familiar. Maybe you’ve heard of City Manager Brian Platt. But how do these leaders work together, and how does that work go from pen on paper to jackhammers on concrete?

To answer that, we asked them ourselves.

Council-Manager government

KC has a Council-Manager form of government. Sometimes, it’s called Weak-Mayor, but “of course, any mayor takes offense to any description of ‘weak mayor,’” Lucas said jokingly.

This government actually came to Missouri first through Excelsior Springs in 1922, with KC not far behind (1926).

Mayor Lucas presides over council meetings and serves as the city’s ceremonial and political leader. He has no veto power, but he takes point on policy. The council then votes on that policy to turn it into legislation. That’s where the manager comes in.

“I essentially run the day-to-day operation of the city as directed by the mayor and the council,” Manager Platt said.

The manager is appointed by the council — Platt started working in KC in December 2020. Legislation directs him to present yearly budgets, appoint task forces, and lead departments.

"[He] was someone who I think had shown great talent in both addressing basics and being a dreamer and suggesting we can do both,” Lucas said.

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“I’ve even gotten used to him not wearing full suits,” Lucas said.

Photo by KCtoday

The Lucas-Platt relationship

“I don’t think this relationship would work if we weren’t friends,” Platt said.

For Lucas and Platt, the mayor-manager relationship is a close one. They had already been together for hours before our 10 a.m. interview.

"[There] was a time where the mayor and the manager in KC actually weren’t speaking to each other,” Lucas said. “That’s hard for everybody.”

Lucas + Platt have their disagreements, but they said the system is good, and their communication + honesty is important.

“We’re a unit. We’re a team. And we’ve got to be unified if we’re ever going to make transformative change,” Platt said.

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