Special to 1808Delaware

The City of Delaware charter, or “constitution,” is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2024.

The charter, which was adopted by voters in 1951 and went into effect January 1, 1954, is the basic law of the City. The charter is the instrument that prescribes the powers of the City, its general organization, the manner of making laws and the powers and duties of various officials.

The charter also established the council-manager form of government that also went into effect in 1954. The City’s first manager was Robert Mott. In council-manager government, council members focus on policy issues that are responsive to citizens’ needs and wishes. The manager is appointed by the council to carry out policy and ensure that the entire community is being served.

Read the 1956 “Report to the People” special edition appearing in the Delaware Gazette, detailing the first two years of Delaware’s new Council-Manager form government.

The council-manager system, first used in 1908 in Staunton, Virginia, was influenced by the Progressive Movement of the early 20th Century. Municipal reformers of that time wanted to rid municipalities of the pervasive “political machine” form of government and the abuses of the spoils system. The thought was to have a politically impartial administrator or manager to carry out the administrative function.

Like a federal or state constitution, the City charter can be amended. Every eight years, the City of Delaware convenes a Charter Review Commission of residents to examine the charter for possible updates. A commission was convened this year and its recommendations will be voted on by City residents in November.

Image: DALL-E 3

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