Fifty-three Pennsylvania cities are cities of the third class. There are four major organizational models, with variations, among Pennsylvania’s third-class cities.

They are: commission form, mayor-council form, council-manager form and weak mayor-council form.

Sixteen third-class cities operate under home rule charters.

Reporters can find their city on the list below and scroll down to the applicable model, keeping in mind that any city followed by the “home rule” designation can have organizational features that differ from the general category to which it belongs.


Under the commission form of city government, residents elect five commissioners, one of whom is the mayor who serves as commission chairman. Each commissioner heads one commission department.

The mayor, as commissioner for public affairs, is head of the police department and appoints its major officers; makes appointments to the planning commission and the redevelopment authority and generally has a great deal of influence in the operation of those agencies. The mayor also supervises the conduct of council meetings, has the power to enforce and execute laws and has the power of a sheriff in a riot.

Other commissioners head the departments of accounts and finance (with major responsibility for accounting and budgeting), streets and public improvements, public safety, and parks and public property.

The city treasurer and city controller are elected at-large for terms of four years. They must be accountants. The treasurer is also the tax collector, responsible for city, school district and, in some cases, county taxes. The controller is responsible for examining and auditing city accounts and expenditures.

Council appoints a city clerk, city solicitor and city engineer. The city clerk’s office approaches the role of a city manager in some cities. The city solicitor provides legal advice to council. The engineer must be a registered civil engineer who prepares plans, specifications and estimates of all engineering work undertaken by the city related to construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of streets, pavements, sewers, bridges and culverts.

Commissioners serve four-year overlapping terms.