April 30, 2012
The City of Westminster, located in Orange County, California, covers an area of approximately 10.2 square miles and has a population of 89,937 ("Westminster,” 2012). The city was founded in 1870, but was not incorporated until 1957. Westminster’s municipal government uses a horizontal structure, which consists of five functional city departments overseen by the city manager and city council. The city’s organizational infrastructure is more suitable to its particular function than a divisional structure, which would be more appropriate for organizations specializing in manufacturing or operations in multiple geographic regions.
The Westminster City Council consists of five part-time elected seats; four general members and the mayor. Adult residents of the city are eligible to run for open seats on the city council. If compared to a traditional corporate structure, city council members would be equivalent to the board of directors. The mayor would be equivalent to the chairperson of the board. Council members are privy to information concerning all facets of the state of the city. Much like a corporate board of directors, city council members regularly hold public and private meetings to hear, discuss, and decide issues facing the organization. Discussion topics commonly include legal issues affecting the city, financial status of the city and future business developments. City council members are also responsible for approving and selecting all department heads, to include the city manager.
The position of city manager would be equivalent to chief executive officer (CEO) of a corporation. The city manager is appointed by the city council and is a full-time at will employee. The city council has the authority to replace the city manager at any time. The city manager oversees the five city departments and acts as a buffer between department heads and the city council. The city manager is responsible for the implementation of decisions made by the city council. The five department heads report directly to the city manager, who in turn, provides status reports, updates, and recommendations to the city council. The five departments of the city are finance, human resources, community development, public works, and the police department. Each city department specializes in specific functions and has its own mission it works toward. The head of each department has specialized training, knowledge, and experience in that particular field. This functional type of organizational structure is beneficial for several reasons. According to Bateman and Snell (2011), lines of communication are clearly understood, employees with technical expertise are free of other unrelated administrative work, the monitoring each environment is more effective, there are greater opportunities for specialized training, and observation of performance standards is better. Although each of the city’s departments is separate, each has differing levels of integration with the others. This integration allows the departments to work toward the mission of the city as a whole. Employees of the finance department process the time sheets and distribute the paychecks of every city employee. The community development department is responsible for civic engineering plans and approval. The public works department carries out plans approved by the community development department. If a department head believes they have appropriate grounds for discipline or termination of an employee, they will consult the human resources department to ensure disciplinary actions are appropriate. The mechanics of the public works department maintain the fleet of police vehicles needed to patrol the city streets. The integration of all city departments is necessary to promote the success and structure of the city. Without proper communication and cooperation between the