The Forgotten Governments: County Commissioners as Policy Makers

By Vincent L. Marando; Robert D. Thomas | Go to book overview

2
County Authorities and Organizations

COUNTY governments have a wide variety of authorities and organizational structures, which vary from state to state and, within states, from county to county. A principal organizational characteristic of counties is that commissioners and independent administrative officials are separately elected and have authority to operate in a semi-autonomous fashion. Broadly speaking, county organizational structures range from the merging of legislative and administrative authority in a single body to the distribution of these governmental functions to separate branches of county government.1

There are three basic forms of county organization: the commission form, the county-manager form, and the council-elected-executive form. Each of these forms was shaped by a multitude of factors, and each has an impact on how commissioners resolve public problems. Of the 226 counties in Florida and Georgia, 167 are represented by commissions; this form combines both the legislative and administrative functions in a single body. Of the 226 counties, 58 have an appointed-county-manager structure, an arrangement which delegates the legislative function to the elected commission and the supervision of administration to the appointed manager. Two counties in Florida and one in Georgia have the council-elected-executive form, a gov-

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All county commissioners can enact ordinances (i.e., legislate) as well as supervise administrators; however, the distinction we are making between legislative and administrative functions is that in some counties, particularly rural counties, commissioners not only legislate but actually administer county activities.

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