The City's charter establishes a council-mayor form of government. City management is led by the elected Mayor in a strong-Mayor, weak-Council form of government.
The Mayor is elected for a four-year term. Six council members are elected to serve four-year terms, with a seventh council member elected every two years in an at-large capacity. State statute also provides for an elected Municipal Court Judge, who is elected for a four-year term.
The City provides a full range of municipal services, including public safety, culture and recreation activities, economic development, streets and parking, utilities, and general administrative services.
Activities owned and operated by the City include water, wastewater and stormwater utilities, municipal parking facilities, Lake Padden Golf Course, Bayview Cemetery, Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham Public Library and Fairhaven Library, nearly 100 parks, a civic stadium, athletic fields, and the Arne Hannah Aquatic Center. The City operates Whatcom Medic One to provide countywide emergency medical services by agreement with Whatcom County.
A Chief Administrative Officer and administrative department heads are appointed by and serve at the Mayor’s discretion, with three exceptions: the City Attorney and Finance Director require approval of the City Council for appointment or removal, and the Library Director is appointed by the Bellingham Public Library Board of Trustees. The City of Bellingham is structured into departments or service areas, which may be further divided into operating divisions. Advisory boards, neighborhood associations and other volunteer groups provide policy advice and other services that help the city function in collaboration with the community’s vision.