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First Class Cities by Form of Government

This page provides an overview of the 10 first class cities in Washington State, showing which positions are elected and appointed in each jurisdiction.

What is a First Class City?

First class cities, as defined by RCW 35.01.010, are cities that have a population of 10,000 or more at the time of organization or reorganization and have adopted a charter under Article XI, section 10 of the state constitution.

The form of government is determined by the charter and varies from city to city. The general powers of first class cities are laid out in chapter 35.22 RCW. The majority of first class cities have amended their charters in recent years, but no cities have organized or reorganized as first class since 1973.

Mayor-Council First Class Cities

There are six first class cities with mayor-council forms of government: Aberdeen, Bellingham, Bremerton, Everett, Seattle, and Spokane. Below is a list of elected and appointed officials according to each city's charter.

Aberdeen

  • People elect: Mayor, 12 councilmembers (two each from six wards with staggered four-year terms)
  • Mayor appoints: Department heads, finance director (ex officio city clerk), boards, and commissions subject to confirmation by the council
  • View Aberdeen City Charter (1929, last amended 1985)

Bellingham

  • People elect: Mayor and seven councilmembers (one each from six wards, one at-large). Four-year staggered terms except for two-year at-large position.
  • Mayor appoints: Chief administrative officer and administrative department heads (police chief, fire chief, public works director, deputy administrator, director of planning and community development, director of parks and recreation, municipal court administrator) are appointed by and serve at the Mayor's discretion, with three exceptions: the city attorney and finance director require approval of the city council for appointment or removal and the library director is appointed by the Bellingham Public Library Board of Trustees. The planning commission and certain advisory boards are appointed without council approval. The civil service commission, board of adjustment, and library board are subject to council approval.
  • View Bellingham City Charter (1973, last amended 2006)

Bremerton

  • People elect: Mayor, municipal court judge, and seven councilmembers (one each from seven districts with four-year staggered terms).
  • Mayor appoints: Administrative heads with confirmation by the city council, including: administrative services director, building official, city attorney, city clerk, city engineer, city treasurer, chief of fire, chief of police, community development director, public works director, human resources manager, and civil service officer. Appoints park board, city planning commission, civil service commission, traffic safety commission, public access citizens advisory committee, solid waste advisory committee, Bremerton Housing Authority, disability action committee, parking advisory board and building appeals board, with consent of the city council.
  • Other appointments: A city (internal) auditor is appointed by an audit committee comprised of two Bremerton residents, an independent Certified Public Accountant, and two councilmembers and serves at the pleasure of the committee.
  • View Bremerton City Charter (1973, last amended 2011)

Everett

  • People elect: Mayor and seven councilmembers (all at-large). Four-year terms, councilmanic terms staggered. Two municipal judges.
  • Mayor appoints: Department heads, chief administrative assistant, city attorney, superintendent of parks and recreation, board of library trustees, and advisory boards, subject to council confirmation. Mayor also appoints city clerk, city treasurer, chief of police, city engineer, fire chief, city planner, civil service commission, and other appointive officers who are not subject to confirmation.
  • View Everett City Charter (1968, last amended 2006)

Seattle

  • People elect: Mayor, nine councilmembers (two elected at-large and seven elected by districts), and city attorney. Four-year terms, councilmanic terms staggered. Nine municipal court judges.
  • Mayor appoints: Department heads, with most appointments subject to council confirmation.
  • Council appoints: City auditor (four-year term). Appointment (and removal for cause) requires a majority vote.
  • View Seattle City Charter (1896, last amended 2013)

Spokane

  • People elect: Mayor and council president (at-large), and six councilmembers (two each from three districts, with staggered terms), three municipal court judges. Four-year terms for all elected officials.
  • Mayor appoints: Department heads, city clerk, and city attorneys, all subject to city council confirmation; assistant department heads; all other officers and employees (subject to civil service requirements, may delegate authority to department heads or other officers).
  • View Spokane City Charter (1910, last amended 2015)

Council-Manager First Class Cities

The other four first class cities use a council-manager form of government: Richland, Tacoma, Vancouver, and Yakima. Below is a list of elected and appointed officials according to each city's charter.

Richland

  • People elect: Seven councilmembers at-large (six serving staggered four-year terms and one serving a two-year term).
  • Council elects: One of its members as mayor for a two-year term following each biennial election.
  • Council appoints: City manager, library board, parks and recreation commission, planning commission, economic development committee, personnel board, and utility advisory committee.
  • View Richland City Charter (1958, last amended 1991)

Tacoma

  • People elect: Mayor and eight councilmembers (five elected by district, three at-large), constituting a nine-member council. All serve four-year staggered terms.
  • Council appoints: City manager, subject to reconfirmation every two years.
  • Mayor and council appoint: Committees, boards, and commissions.
  • Manager appoints: City attorney, city clerk, and all department heads except library and utility director who are appointed by their respective boards subject to civil service provisions.
  • Other elections/appointments: Five-member civil service board consists of three members elected at-large, one member elected by city employees, and one member jointly appointed by the city manager and director of the department of public utilities.
  • View Tacoma City Charter (1953, last amended 2014)

Vancouver

  • People elect: Mayor and six other councilmembers (four-year staggered terms).
  • Mayor appoints: Civil service commission and Vancouver housing authority, without council approval. Aviation advisory committee, board of adjustment, building-fire codes board of appeals, parking commission, parks and recreation commission, planning commission, project review committee, and urban forestry commission, cable television commission, library board, international affairs commission, charter review, and mayor/city council salaries commission subject to council confirmation.
  • Council appoints: City manager.
  • Manager appoints: City attorney, subject to confirmation by council; other officers, department heads, and employees.
  • View Vancouver City Charter (1952, last amended 2009)

Yakima

  • People elect: Seven councilmembers (four elected to district positions, three elected at-large), to serve four-year staggered terms.
  • Council elects: One of its members as mayor for two-year term following each biennial election.
  • Council appoints: City manager, advisory boards, and commissions.
  • Manager appoints: All department heads; other officers and employees, the majority of whom are subject to civil service merit system provisions.
  • View Yakima City Charter (1931, last amended 2011)

Last Modified: February 19, 2016