The railroad in the mid 1800's set out to incorporate boarders for Marceline to become a town. On March 6th, 1888 an election was held and from those election results the Linn County Court incorporated the City of Marceline, at that time they appointed a mayor, and four aldermen, and they served until the next election was held. In the mid 1920's the idea came around to change from a mayor-council form of government to a council- manager form of government, but it actually wasn't pursued until the 1940's. This issue was placed before the voters with a strong backing by the Marceline Rotary Club, after being initially rejected the first time it eventually passed.

The City of Marceline is currently operating under a third class city manager form of government.

 
Missouri Revised Statutes
Chapter 78
Optional Forms, Third Class Cities
Section 78.430

 
Third class city may adopt city manager form of government—procedure.

78.430. 1. Any city of the third class, or any city with a population entitling it to become a city of the third class, may become organized under the provisions of sections 78.430 to 78.640 by proceeding in the following manner: Upon petition of voters residing in the city equal in number to twenty-five percent of the votes cast for all candidates for mayor in the last preceding election, the mayor shall by proclamation submit the question of organizing under sections 78.430 to 78.640.

2. The question shall be submitted in substantially the following form:

Shall the city of . . . . . . . . . . . Organize under sections 78.430 to 78.640, RSMo, providing for the city manager form of government?

3. The election thereon shall be conducted, votes canvassed, and results declared in the same manner as provided for by law in respect to other city elections of cities of the third class. If a majority of votes cast on the question is in favor of adopting the optional form of government provided for herein, the city clerk shall transmit to the secretary of state and to the county clerk of the county in which the city is located, duplicate copies of a certificate stating that the question was adopted. The city shall then proceed to organize under sections 78.430 to 78.640, by nomination of candidates and election of councilmen as herein provided. The elections shall be held at the next municipal election following the date of adoption of sections 78.430 to 78.640. If the plan is not adopted, the question of adopting the plan shall not be resubmitted to the voters of the city for adoption for at least one year thereafter, and then the question of adoption may be resubmitted upon a like petition, proclamation and notice as provided above.