Intergovernmental Relations and West Virginia Politics
There are 708 governments in West Virginia, including the state government, 55 county governments, 55 school districts, 231 municipal governments, and 366 special districts.1 With so many governments providing public goods and services in the state and with 361 state elected officials, 442 county elected officials, 275 school board members, 231 mayors, 231 city clerks/recorders, and 1,273 city council members all "incharge," the extent and complexity of the relationships between and among these governments and elected officials is relatively great. However, not all of these participants have an equal role in defining the state's policy choices. The state constitution, for example, clearly identifies the state government as the dominant partner in West Virginia's state-local government relations, and in recent years, the federal government has emerged as the dominant partner in West Virginia's federal-state-local government relations.
The federal government has always played an active role in West Virginia's political system. During the nineteenth century it worked closely with West Virginia's state and local governments to promote the state's economic development. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for example, worked with the state to improve navigation along the Ohio, Monongahela, Kanawha, Little Kanawha, and Big Sandy Rivers. These improvements were critical for the development of the state's coal, timber, and petroleum products industries.2 The federal government also paid for the construction of the Cumberland Road. Completed in 1811, the road connected Cumberland, Maryland, with Wheeling and the Ohio River, turning Wheeling from a small