The City of Columbia is governed by an 8-member City Council, comprised of 2 representatives elected to staggered, 4-year terms from each of the City’s 4 Wards. The City Council is led by a Mayor elected “at-large” (or from anywhere within the City) to a 4-year term of office. The Mayor and City Council serve at the level of government most responsive (and accountable) to residents. However, as noted above, Columbia is classified as a “Non-Home Rule” unit of local government. This means the State Legislature in Springfield, NOT local elected officials, have the greatest impact on governing Columbia. Non-Home Rule cities are subject to ALL State legislation and mandates (including those carrying certain costs to implement/enforce, with no offsetting funds from the State). Furthermore, the Mayor and City Council are only able to exercise powers explicitly permitted by the Illinois Compiled Statutes (Illinois State Law).
Home Rule communities may be more flexible in finding local solutions to local issues and are not as burdened by state-imposed mandates and regulations. This means the individuals Columbians elect to fill the Offices of Mayor and Aldermen assume actual responsibility for City government.