Elections Overview > Las Vegas City Government
The city of Las Vegas was incorporated on March 16, 1911, and until 1944, operated under a "commission" form of government with each commissioner having administrative control over certain operating departments of the city. Since January 1, 1944, the city of Las Vegas has operated under what is commonly known as a "council/manager" form of government. This form of government was approved by a vote of the people with subsequent Las Vegas City Charter adoption by the Legislature.
Until 1975, the voters of the city elected the mayor and four city councilmen. A vote of the people in June of 1973 approved a City Charter amendment dividing the city into four wards. This allowed the mayor to be elected at large and each councilman to be elected by the voters of his or her own ward. The City Charter amendment was subsequently adopted by the Legislature with the first election by ward held in 1975. The elected officials chose to use the title "commissioner" until 1983 when a new City Charter approved by the Legislature changed their title to "councilman."
A vote of the people in 1999 approved an advisory ballot question to divide the city into six wards. Anticipating a favorable vote, the State Legislature and City Council had previously passed enabling legislation permitting the expansion to six wards. As of January 1, 2000, the change to six wards became effective.
The citizens elect the mayor and six council members who comprise the "City Council." Their terms are four years with elections staggered every two years.
The mayor serves as a member of the City Council, presides as chairman over its meetings, performs ceremonial duties and is the chief executive officer of the city. The mayor serves as the official representative of the people in all matters and officially signs enactments of the City Council. One of the council members is elected by the City Council to serve as mayor pro tempore to act during the absence of the mayor.
The City Council, including the mayor, is the governing body of the city and exercises legislative power by enacting ordinances, resolutions, orders and other policies necessary for the management and execution of the powers vested in the city through the City Charter. Among other things, the City Council is empowered to:
- Appoint the city manager and approve the appointment by the manager of the department heads, their assistants and other city staff.
- Adopt an annual budget.
- Act as the Redevelopment Agency.
- Enact and provide for the enforcement of all laws and ordinances.
- May acquire, sell and lease buildings and property.
- Enter into contracts, agreements, franchises, etc.
- License and regulate all businesses, trades and professions.
- Organize, regulate and maintain a fire department.
- Protect the public health.
- Enact and enforce building and safety codes.
- Provide for the zoning, subdivision and use of private land and buildings.
- Provide for traffic control.
- Provide for the abatement, prevention and removal of nuisances.
- Establish and appoint citizens to serve on city of Las Vegas boards - Planning Commission, Civil Service Board, Arts Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, to name just a few.
- Also, members of the City Council serve on various boards - Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Regional Transportation Commission, Regional Flood Control, District Board of Health, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Police Committee on Fiscal Affairs, etc.
The City Attorney is appointed by the City Council and provides legal guidance and support for elected city officials, city departments, and boards and commissions in conducting city business. The office represents the city before judicial and administrative agencies in civil litigation proceedings and prosecutes all traffic and misdemeanor violations occurring within the limits of the city of Las Vegas. The City Attorney’s Office also provides legal guidance to city departments, board and commission members and elected officials concerning matters that may present a conflict of interest.
The City Auditor’s Office operates under the direction of the City Council. The Mayor, subject to ratification by the City Council, appoints the City Auditor. The City Auditor is responsible for directing audit professionals in a comprehensive audit program including performance audits, compliance audits, special audits, information systems audits, and financial audits. The City Council created an Audit Committee to review and evaluate the internal audit activities. The Committee is appointed by the Mayor and is comprised of two City Council members and three members of the community-at-large.
The City Manager is appointed by the City Council and is responsible for the effective administration and operation of all municipal services for the city of Las Vegas. The City Manager (1) supervises the city’s general affairs, (2) exercises control over all of the departments and divisions of city government and over all of the officers and employees of the city, (3) gives the City Council information concerning the state of the city and recommends the adoption of bills and programs that he deems are necessary and appropriate, (4) submits the annual budget of the city to the City Council, (5) ensures that all general laws and ordinances of the city are observed and enforced, (6) ensures that all contracts of the city are faithfully kept and fully performed, (7) executes contracts and other documents of which are delegated to him by the City Council, and (8) performs administrative duties that are designated by the City Council or prescribed by ordinance.
The State Legislature adopted the City Charter on January 1, 1944, which established a Council-Manager form of government for the city of Las Vegas. The Charter establishes the municipal government empowered by NRS 268 and is a part of the Las Vegas Municipal Code . Charter change can only occur by Nevada legislative action or a vote of the people. It is to the city what the Constitution is to state and federal governments.