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City of Tulsa Government Guide

Are you ready to learn even more about how the City of Tulsa's government operates? Our Government Guide is a great place to start and includes information on the local government structure, the legislative process, meeting and agenda information, and more!

To view the Government Guide online, click here or download the guide below.

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The contents of the Government Guide are below:

About Tulsa City Government

The City of Tulsa was incorporated in 1898, nine years before statehood. In 1908, Tulsa adopted its first City Charter that outlined the processes of the city government. Under this charter, a board of commissioners led Tulsa. The City Commission included a Mayor and four commissioners: police and fire, streets and public property, waterworks and sewage, and finance and revenue. The Mayor and each City Commissioner held executive powers over various City departments and together acted as a legislative body. A City Auditor was also elected to exercise independent oversight of City operations and act as the City Clerk. The City Auditor did not have legislative power.

In February 1989, Tulsa voters approved the most sweeping changes in city government in more than 80 years. A strong Mayor-Council system was chosen to replace the outdated City Commission.

The change came about after a 35-year debate on how city government could better represent the residents of Tulsa. The first attempt to change the original City Charter, which had been in place since 1908, was made in 1954. It failed, and so did three other attempts in 1959, 1969, and 1973. The last proposal lost by a 3-1 margin. It seemed that Tulsa's system of government would probably remain unchanged into the next century.

Advocates of a City Charter change wanted a more representative, better organized, and strong-Mayor form of government. Many criticized the City Commission structure because residents could seldom find out which department was in charge of a given situation. In the late 1980s, only 40 percent of City departments reported to the Mayor - a further indication of a lack of centralized government. Resources were also wasted.

Trucks that carried materials for their own department could rarely switch gears to perform a similar job for another City department. In addition, the City had several maintenance operations - all performing the same jobs.

Also, under the City Commission form of government, all commissioners and the Mayor were elected at-large, meaning by the whole city. A federal lawsuit filed by the NAACP alleged this form of government violated federal voting rights amendments by diluting the Black vote with at-large elections of city commissioners. A Mayor-Council form of government would see Councilors elected by district, ensuring better representation.

The voters of the City of Tulsa finally approved a new City Charter on Valentine’s Day, 1989, with the measure garnering 70 percent of the 47,586 votes cast. The new Charter provided for a Mayor-Council form of government with better representation, fewer City departments, more centralization, and greater operational efficiency.

Today, the Tulsa City Council continues to work with Tulsa's Mayor, City Auditor, and all City departments to try to find ways to make government function more efficiently and effectively so that all areas of the community are better served by City government.

Who makes up the city government and what do they do?

City Council Frequently Asked Questions

Meeting Agendas and More Information

Legislative Process and Frequently Asked Questions

City Council Meetings and More Information


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