One of the professed goals of the 1998 Tanzanian Local Government Reform Program, entailing substantial decentralization, was to provide for a democratic administrative set up in local government. Elected local councils were invested with responsibilities for a wide range of policy sectors and services; the local administrative staff, formerly recruited and instructed by central government, would be appointed by and accountable to the local councils. A well-functioning local politico-administrative system was considered paramount to improve service delivery and ensure control of decision making by the local community. This article reports on research into the relations between councilors and administrators in two Tanzanian municipalities. Overall, these relations were found to be tense and full of discordance, caused by clashing role perceptions and mutual distrust. The research suggests that the main factor underlying the behavior and attitudes of councilors and administrators is the very system of public administration, which - despite the ambitions expressed in the Local Government Reform Program - remains very centralistic in character.