Predicting turnover of appointed county managers in large American counties

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The American Review of Public Administration




Researchers have suggested that American counties are emerging as leaders in local governance. This is mainly attributed to counties being called on to provide a whole host of new services to an ever-growing population. County managers are known to play a critical role in the provision of these services. Thus, the extent of turnover among county managers can significantly affect the services provided to a community. To date, researchers know very little about the factors contributing to county manager turnover. Several empirical analyses have explored tenure and turnover patterns of top-level government executives, yet these analyses have principally focused on cities. The purpose of this article is to extend existing research on city and county manager turnover. In this study, the authors test hypotheses with data on county manager turnover from 32 large counties with populations greater than 500,000 over a period of 15 years (1992-2006). As with prior studies performed on city manager turnover, the authors posit that county manager turnover in counties with a commission–manager form of government are influenced by forces of political uncertainty, fiscal stress, and community instability. The results show that increases in measurements of political uncertainty, fiscal stress, and community instability positively influence county manager turnover. Furthermore, the results show that increases in a county manager’s level of formal education increase the odds that a county manager will remain in office. Similar increases were found when county managers who were promoted from within the organization were compared with those who were recruited from external sources.


Counties; County government; County officials and employees; County services; Fiscal Instability; Labor turnover; Leadership; Local government; Political conflict; Turnover; United States


American Politics | Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration



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