Once you’ve decided what kind of change you want to see, you’ll need to figure out who has the power to make the change. Often the biggest issues we confront are not what our strategies should be, but rather who can make them happen. This section is designed to give you a broad understanding of the types of decision makers you may encounter and their powers and authorities. By “decision makers,” we mean the people in and around public offices and agencies who can influence the outcomes of your efforts.
Though the public may see elected officials as the primary public sector decision makers, many people who are not elected, such as agency staff, appointees, aides, and advisors, have a significant influence on the implementation of public policies and use of public resources. Who holds real power and resources can vary widely from city to city. In cities and communities with “strong mayor” systems, mayors shape policies, direct resources, and oversee the city’s administration. In “weak mayor” systems, city councils have both legislative and executive authorities, while mayors lack veto powers and may not even oversee day-to-day administration. City managers can also have a huge influence over a city’s resources, particularly in small cities where elected officials may have other jobs or responsibilities.
The questions in the Strategies for Action can help you identify who can move your agenda. If you’re interested in learning about the roles of different types of decision makers, check out Appendix B.