Third-Class Cities

There are three forms of third-class cities, depending on which legislation your city government opted to follow. From 1957 to 1972, cities could opt out of the traditional commission form in favor of a mayor-council or council-manager form of government. While they share many attributes, such as how they are elected, qualifications, and the typical boards and commissions, there are differences having to do with length of term, who sets compensation and employment rules, and the size of council. The most significant differences have to do with who is in charge and the role of the mayor.

If you live in a third-class city, but are not sure which type, check the city’s website or contact the city clerk to find out.

Who’s in Charge?

Commission Form:

Each commission member, including mayor, in charge of a major department.

Mayor-Council Form:

Mayor serves as chief executive.

Council-Manager Form:

Appoints manager to serve as chief executive.


Length of Term:

▪ 4 Years
▪ Mayor-council form is also 4 year terms, but staggered elections ensure that 1/2 of the council is elected at each election.

How Elected:

▪ At large: by all the registered voters in the county
▪ Short term: If a seat becomes vacant during the term, the commission or council appoints a citizen to fill the unexpired term. If this occurs in the first or second year of the term, the seat is put on the ballot at the next municipal election for a 2-year term.

Size of Council:

Commission Form:

5 including mayor

Mayor-Council Form:

5, 7, or 9

Council-Manager Form:

5, 7, or 9


▪ Registered voter
▪ 18 years or older
▪ Resident of city for one year prior to the election

Compensation and Employment:

▪ Set by commission or council

Typical Boards and Commissions:

▪ Planning Commission
▪ Zoning Hearing Board
▪ Historical Board
▪ Shade Tree Commission
▪ Redevelopment Authority
▪ Environmental Advisory Committee
▪ Board of Health