City Manager

The City of Dubuque has operated under the Council-Manager form of government since 1920. This system combines the strength of an elected Mayor and City Council with a Professional Manager and staff. Read more about Dubuque’s city government.


The City Manager plans, organizes and manages all activities of the City organization so as to provide leadership so that all City Council priorities, policies and programs are successfully implemented and effectively managed.  This includes the City Council Policy Agenda and Management Agenda to assure quality public services are responsive to the citizens and that we operate as a High Performing Organization.

The City Manager is responsible for:

  • Making recommendations to the Council, which the Council may accept, reject, or modify. The City Manager must then implement any action taken by the Council
  • Making budget recommendations to the City Council
  • Overseeing nearly 30 department and division managers, who supervise more than 500 employees

Michael C. Van Milligen

Michael Van Milligen

Guiding Principles of the Management Philosophy



The plan needs to be driven by:

  • Engagement (employee, resident, customer)
  • Data that focuses on outcomes


Team members should take advantage of the valuable input that can be provided by residents and employees for department decision-making.

Themes for effective use of the guiding principles

  • Believe that people of all cultures and backgrounds provide valuable input
  • Understand the benefits of receiving input from others
  • Develop the processes that capitalize on the input of others, and work to remove barriers to participation
  • Understand the benefits of empowering others
  • Seek first to understand and then to be understood – Steven Covey
  • Motivate staff and encourage employee initiative


Team members’ approach to issues should be to focus on what can be done to solve the problem.

Themes for effective use of the guiding principles

  • Create processes that help others be more creative problem solvers
  • Perceive problems as opportunities
  • Look to others to help solve problems
  • Develop an understanding of the various cultural approaches to conflict and learn skills to adapt
  • Encourage risk-taking
  • Practice flexibility and assume good intent from participants with whom you disagree
  • Understand that bureaucracies function best in black and white issues, while most issues are varying shades of gray


Team members can be more effective by developing partnerships with other departments and outside organizations.

Themes for effective use of the guiding principles

  • Form teams around defined tasks
  • Encourage employee involvement through problem-solving task forces
  • Develop team processes for decision-making and setting goals and objectives
  • Facilitate the group process and develop the ability to adapt to various communication styles
  • Form partnerships that reflect the variety of backgrounds and interests in the community that we serve


Management Style: Socratic

Success is about People, Planning and Partnerships leading to desired outcomes.


  • Establish a culture of quality customer service and deliver services that exceed citizen expectations.
  • Invest in staff development to improve leadership capacity and increase leadership effectiveness.
  • Attract, engage and retain a high quality, creative and diverse workforce.
  • Promote and invest in employee health and safety.


Work with all City departments and divisions to perform the duties and responsibilities specified in the City Charter to ensure economic prosperity, environmental/ecological integrity and social/cultural vibrancy exist throughout the community and are incorporated into daily activities.


  • Develop and foster over 50 Local, State, Regional, Federal and National partnerships to implement the City Council’s community vision.
  • Increase citizen engagement in local governance processes
  • Develop team-processes that lead to innovative solutions for community challenges and opportunities

View information on property taxes, City budget, utility rates and fees, and debt reduction plan.

In my opinion, the City Manager’s job is multifaceted in the work to create a viable, livable, and equitable community:

  1. Most importantly, follow the policy direction of the Mayor and City Council.
  2. Create a data-driven, outcome-focused, high-performance organization with engaged employees and residents including processes and resources that allow employees and partners to be successful. 
  3. Create an atmosphere for the successful investment of capital by private businesses, not-for-profits, and individuals, while not sacrificing community quality of life attributes.
  4. By your actions let people know that you care with the goal of providing them hope that they can achieve their personal goals.

Mike Van Milligen

Contact Us

  1. Michael C. Van Milligen  |  email
    City Manager

    Cori Burbach  |  email
    Assistant City Manager

    City Hall
    50 W. 13th St., Dubuque, IA 52001
    Phone: 563.589.4110
    TDD/TTY: 563.690.6678
    Fax: 563.589.4149
    Staff Directory

    Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.