Santa Cruz was incorporated in 1866 as a town under the laws of the State of California and received its first charter as a city in 1876. At that time the city was governed by a Mayor and Common Council consisting of four members.
In 1907, the citizens voted for a new charter designating a Mayor as chief executive and a City Council consisting of seven members. Subsequent charters gave a Mayor and four Commissioners both executive and administrative powers. At that time the city was divided into five departments: Public Affairs, Revenue and Finance, Public Health and Safety, Public Works, and Streets and Parks.
In 1948, the City of Santa Cruz adopted a new City Charter. This charter established a Council-Manager form of government, with a Mayor and six Councilmembers setting policy for the city and a city manager serving as the chief administrator of those policies. The Charter, with amendments, is still in existence today.