City Government Structure

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What it Means to be a City in Indiana

While the words “city” and “town” are used interchangeably in everyday conversation, they have specific legal meaning when applied to Indiana municipal governments (the word “municipality” applies to both cities and towns). The major structural difference between city and town government is the existence of separate Executive (Mayor) and Legislative (Council) branches within city government.

Every city in the state has an elected mayor and an elected common council, except for Indianapolis. Indianapolis has a 29-member city-county council. In addition to Mayor and elected Council, the city of Carmel also has an elected Clerk of the City and City Judge. Carmel’s city council has seven members, two at large and five that represent districts.

Cities are authorized to establish any executive departments which they consider necessary to “efficiently perform the administrative functions that will fulfill the needs of their citizens” (IC 36-4-9-4).

The City of Carmel includes the following departments:


Elected Officials


"The government of cities is divided between the mayor and the common city council. In Indiana, the mayor exercises the executive authority of the city (IC 36-4-4-3) and is primarily concerned with the overall day-to-day operation. The executive authority is often exercised through the board of works, city departments and the head of those departments. The common city council exercises the city legislative authority (IC 36-4-4-4), makes laws that govern the city and appropriates the cities monies.
The mayor serves for a term of four years; there are no term limits on this office position. A person is eligible to serve as mayor if they were a resident in the city for one year prior to the election (IC 3-1-8-26). If the mayor ceases to be a resident of the city, they forfeit their position (IC 36-4-5-2)."

City Council

“The common council is both the city’s legislative body and its fiscal body. Members of the council are part-time elected officials who serve for a term of four years; they are not subject to term limits and may run for re-election as often as they wish. As individual council members, they do not possess significant statutory powers. As the city’s legislative body, however, the council exercises many of the powers given cities through the passage of ordinances and appropriation of monies (IC 36-4-6-18).
The council fixes the annual salaries of all elected officials of the city, which may not be changed in the year for which they are fixed, or reduced below the previous year’s level (IC 36-4-7-2). The council also establishes the annual salaries of members of the city’s police and fire departments (IC 36-8-3-3). It has authority to reduce but not to increase, any other items in the city budget as submitted by the mayor for its approval (IC 36-4-7-7). A council member must have been a resident of the district from which he or she is elected, if any, for at least six months before election, and must have been a resident of the city for at least one year before the election (IC 3-8-1-27). If the council member ceases to be a resident of the city or a resident of the district from which they are elected, they forfeit his or her office (IC 36-4-6-2).”


The primary function of the Clerk-Treasurer, a four-year elected official, is to serve as the fiscal officer of the city of Carmel. The Clerk-Treasurer processes the receipts and expenditures of all city money; prescribes the payroll for the city; determines the manner in which vendors, officers and employees are paid; manages all city financial accounts; makes all investments on behalf of the city; prepares the budget estimates of revenue, financial statements and the proposed tax rate; manages all city records; serves as the clerk of the City Council and Board of Public Works by preparing agendas, recording proceedings and maintaining custody of records.