Section 2. City Charter, Rules of the Council, Staff, and Advisory Boards

The City Council operates under laws and rules imposed by the state, city, and council itself. The following information explains key regulations that impact Council. It also covers the ways in which the City Council and City government engage to facilitate their work.

City Charter and City Code

The Charter of the City of Falls Church was first adopted in 1948 and outlines the basic structure and powers of the city government. The charter is where you can find information on the composition of and the powers vested in the City Council.

The City Code is a collection of ordinances passed by City Council that comprise city law. The City Code is continuously added to and amended through the legislation that Council approves.

The City Charter and Code can be found here.

Rules of Procedure

Section 4.06 of the City Charter gives Council authority to adopt Rules of Procedure. These rules aid Council in conducting business in an efficient manner and in accordance with the law. 

Rules of Procedure are initially adopted at the first meeting of a newly elected council and may be amended at later meetings. This is known as an organizational meeting and serves to conduct necessary administrative business, including election of a mayor and vice mayor.

The most recent adopted Rules of Procedure can be found here.

Dillon Rule

Local governments in the State of Virginia operate under the "Dillon Rule" model of authority. Under the Dillon Rule, localities only have authority to conduct business that is expressly given to them by the General Assembly in the State Code. Local powers are limited to those relinquished by the State, or those necessary to carry out permitted business. Municipalities can request additional authority from the General Assembly.

Organization of City Government

The city government is divided into 17 departments that conduct the daily business of the city.  All council requests for information from departmental staff should be initiated through the City Manager.

The full list of departments is located at www.fallschurchva.gov/Departments where you can find a short description of each and links to their main page.

The most recent chart of the government's organizational structure can be found here.

Advisory Boards and Commissions

The City Charter grants Council the authority to create public bodies and delegate powers to them. Members of most boards and commissions are appointed by the City Council. In Falls Church some of these groups have been formed to work on issues important to the community, while others are mandated by State Code. Each board or commission is assigned a Council Member to serve as a liaison to the group.

Many of these groups are advisory, meaning they make recommendations on items that Council may ultimately take action on. Other groups are vested with their own legal powers. The mission and meeting schedule for each public body is listed on their individual pages. See a full list of boards and commissions here.

Council/Manager Form of Government

The City of Falls Church operates under the Council-Manager form of government as provided by the City Charter and adopted by the Virginia General Assembly in 1950. In council-manager government, council members are the leaders and policy makers elected to represent various segments of the community and to concentrate on high-level policy issues. 

Political authority is vested in the seven-member City Council, which enacts ordinances and resolutions, approves city budgets, sets tax rates, and establishes policy. In formulating decisions and policy, the Council Members act as a group. The seven Council Members are elected at-large for four-year terms, with alternating elections in May of even-numbered years for three or four members. The Council Members elect the Mayor and Vice Mayor for two-year terms. 

The manager is appointed by Council to carry out policy and day-to-day operations.The City Manager is appointed by the council as full-time administrator of the city government.

Council-Appointed Employees

Three positions in the city government are appointed by City Council: the City Manager, City Clerk, and City Attorney. These roles serve the City Council and/or the city government in varying degrees. Through these different responsibilities, they help carry out the day-to-day functions of the government. Switch through the tabs below for more detail on the specific duties of each position.

  1. City Manager
  2. City Clerk
  3. City Attorney

The mission of the City Manager’s Office is to:

  • Provide timely, professional recommendations to City Council and implement the vision and policies of the Council
  • Ensure the delivery of high quality services with outstanding customer service at a good value to taxpayers, residents and visitors of the City
  • Foster economic and fiscal sustainability
  • Enhance the City’s reputation as a high performing, learning, and caring governmental organization that operates in a manner consistent with its mission and values

In fulfilling this mission, the City Manager and city wide leadership team develops and implements the Council two year work plan; implements all policies adopted by the City Council; facilitates community dialogue on Citywide issues; and implements and monitors the City’s annual operating budget and capital improvements program.

The City Manager ensures that the general government organization supports City Council meetings; routinely participates in regional/statewide organizational meetings; participates in the federal and state legislative process; and provides technical assistance to numerous boards and commissions, as well as community advocacy and non-profit groups to promote an informed citizenry. In addition, the City Manager ensures effective internal communication among the organization through weekly management meetings, regular meetings with department directors, meetings with front line staff, and by attending the monthly Employee Advisory Committee meeting.