Waco Government Over the Years

Last updated on March 22, 2024 at 08:00 AM

Black and white city council photo of nine men
1955 City of Waco elected officials.
Front row (from left to right): Commissioner Joel L. Ward, Jr., Attorney Wiley Stem Jr., Secretary Otis W. DeHay, City Manager Jack W. Jeffrey, Commissioner J. Fred Simon, Jr., and Commissioner Truett K. Smith.
Back row (from left to right): Commissioner Melvin O. Gilliam, Mayor O.B. Robertson, and Commissioner D.T. Hicks, Jr.

Waco's story of self-government is a fascinating journey through different models of leadership. For decades, the city council, comprised of 10 to 12 aldermen, steered our city. In April 1908, voters sought a new approach, opting for a commission form of government with a mayor and four commissioners that were elected at large and were paid.

One year later, on April 15, 1909, the Waco City Council held its last meeting, and the new commission and mayor were sworn in officially dissolving the previous council system.

However, Waco's political landscape continued to evolve. In 1923, residents were offered the choice to return to the familiar alderman system or embrace a novel city manager system. On December 29 of that year, a majority voted for the city manager system. In April the following year, the newly elected commissioners were sworn in, and they chose a mayor and a mayor pro-tem. One week later, the commission hired the City of Waco's first city manager.

About two decades later in January 1946, voters elected to eliminate the manager-commission form of government to return to the aldermanic system. However, in this new system, six aldermen were elected to represent six wards, and the mayor was elected at-large. In place of the city manager, the mayor served as the city's administrative and executive officer.

Waco's commitment to refining its government structure continued in January 1948. Voters embraced the city manager model once again, opting for six aldermen alongside a city manager.

A decade later, in November 1958, Waco's governing body officially transitioned from "commission" to the familiar "city council" term used today. The most significant recent change came in November 1987, when voters overwhelmingly approved a popularly elected mayor.

Today, Waco thrives under the council-manager form of government, a testament to the City's commitment to continuous improvement and resident participation.


“Bare 159-vote margin approves city charter”.  Waco Tribune-Herald, 2 Nov 1958, p. 1

“Bush elected mayor by 4-to-4 majority”.  Waco News-Tribune, 3 Apr 1946, p. 1

“City charter vote slated for Nov. 1”. Waco News-Tribune, 27 Aug 1958, p. 1

“City manager plan starts here after April 6 election”.  Waco News-Tribune, 3 Feb 1948, p. 1

“City manager plan wins in Waco charter election”.  Waco News-Tribune, 30 Dec 1923, p. 1

Copeland, Mike.  “Wacoans line up to pass changes”.  Waco Tribune-Herald, 4 Nov 1987, p. 1A

“J.E. Hawkins elected new Waco mayor”.  Waco News-Tribune, 21 Apr 1948, p. 1

“Result of city election”.  Waco Semi Weekley Tribune, 11 Apr 1908, p. 5

“School divorce okehed; most proposals lag”.  Waco Sunday Tribune-Herald, 1 Feb 1948, p. 1

“Smashing 3-to-1 defeat given manager plan”.  Waco News-Tribune, 30 Jan 1946, p. 1

“The commissioners were inaugurated”.  Waco Daily Times-Herald, 16 Apr 1909, p. 6

“Tom P. Stone elected Waco mayor after commission pledged to city manager plan is sworn in”.  Waco News-Tribune, 15 Apr 1924, p. 10

“Wacoans vote today on 18 charter changes”.  Waco News-Tribune, 31 Jan 1948, p. 1