William R. Hopkins served as the first city manager of Cleveland from 1924 to 1929. By that time, Cleveland had seen several controversial political figures in office such as Frederick Kohler and Harry L. Davis. Voters decided to try to extricate municipal government from partisan politics by adopting the city manager plan. Hopkins was selected by local Republican boss Maurice Maschke, former postmaster William J. Murphy, and business manager of the news George Moran as the man who could hold the job as the city's manager. He was elected to the position by a coalition.
As city manager, Hopkins brought new development to Cleveland. He pushed for the development of parks, improved welfare institutions, wider boulevards, more playgrounds, air pollution control, and the construction of the Van Sweringen brothers' Terminal Tower. However, because the balance between city council and the city's central government was outweighed due to Hopkins' efficiency, council was always at war with the city manager, especially the newly-elected Peter Witt.
In 1925, he proposed a bold new initiative; the construction of a large airport located ten miles southwest of downtown. At the time, the idea seemed like a pipe dream with the introduction of the airplane being relatively new. However, it was built as Cleveland Municipal Airport and became the first municipally owned airport in the United States. In 1951, the name was changed to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in his honor.