The Council-Manager form of government is the most prevalent form of government in the United States. Under this form of government adopted by Scotch Plains in 1978, the township is governed by a 5 member Mayor and Council. The Mayor and Council serve as the legislative and policy making body of the township and are expected to act as a body on all matters. All members of the governing body are elected to 4 year terms in partisan elections. While the Mayor is elected separately, he/she serves as an equal member of the governing body, shares legislative and policy making power with the rest of council, and does not possess executive authority. Some additional duties of the Mayor include serving as the presiding officer of council meetings, performing marriages and appointments to certain board and commission appointments as required by law.
The elected officials represent the township and develop a long-range vision for its future. They establish policies and laws that affect the overall operation of the community and are responsive to residents' needs and wishes. To ensure that these policies are carried out and that the entire community is equitably served, the governing body appoints a highly trained professional manager on the basis of his/her education, experience, skills, and abilities.
The selection of a professional, non-partisan manager by the council helps assure that council policies will be implemented professionally and without political influence. While the Township Manager is hired by majority vote of the governing body, and serves at the pleasure of the majority, state law expressly prohibits any member of the governing body to attempt to individually influence the actions of the manager or any other official in the township. Further, all administrative service of the municipality is handled through the manager's office and members of the governing body are prohibited from giving orders to any subordinates of the manager either publicly or privately. The Municipal Manager handles administrative functions in the Township which allows the governing body to concentrate on major policy and legislative initiatives. The manager has the full administrative responsibility for the municipality, including appointment of department heads as well as subordinates, preparation and presentation of the budget and the negotiation of contracts.