Fort Madison has a mayor / council form of government with seven elected councilors from five wards and two at large. Special meetings are held as needed.
The mayor and City Council members are the duly elected representatives of the citizens of Fort Madison and act as the political head of the city. They are responsible for setting policy, approving the budget, determining the tax rate, and formulating broad, long-term policies that outline the city's public function. The city manager is appointed by council to carry out policy and oversee the day-to-day operations of the city on behalf of the City Council. The city manager is bound by the actions of the council.
City Council meetings are open, public meetings in accordance with Iowa Code Chapter 21. The council can go into a closed session only under very specific circumstances as allowed by law.