Etiquette in Verbally Addressing a City Council

Many municipalities post their protocols for addressing city council meetings on the city's website.
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City Council meetings frequently allot some time for citizens to address concerns or to make announcements. Each city has its own protocols for addressing city council. These typically govern the circumstances under which you can address the council, how much notice you must give before addressing the city council and how long you have to speak when addressing the council.

1 First Things First

Before you address your city council, determine whether you actually have need of addressing the council. Many problems can be resolved without addressing the council directly by speaking with your city clerk. If you do need to address your city council, follow the city clerk's instructions regarding notifying your city council that you want to speak. Ask about your city's protocols regarding when you can speak to the city council and how much speaking time you will be offered.

2 Proper Address

Wait until the chair of your city council – typically the mayor – recognizes you before addressing the council. Address your initial comments to the council chair. Address mayors as "Mr. or Ms. Mayor." Address further comments to the chair unless you are responding directly to a council member who has addressed you. Address other council members as Mr., Ms. or Dr., as applicable. State your name and address for the public record, then briefly state your business, making sure to keep all comments respectful and on topic.

Dell Markey is a full-time journalist. When he isn't writing business spotlights for local community papers, he writes and has owned and operated a small business.