What is a County Commission?

Daphne Mallory

The county commission is a board consisting of three or more members who are elected by residents to govern the affairs of the county. Not every county in the United States has a county commission, and there are a few counties that have only one member instead of three. Any member of the commission is referred to as a commissioner. The commission may enact laws, which are often referred to as county ordinances, and commissioners can carry out other duties for which they are authorized under the state constitution or state laws. The commission may also have a custodial role of all public records, although county clerks often manage the day to day filing and discarding of paperwork filed with the county.

County commissions conduct business in open meetings.
County commissions conduct business in open meetings.

The county board of supervisors, board of county commissioners, and county council are alternative names for the county commission in some states. No matter what the name is, these governing bodies often function in the same manner. One of the key functions of commissioners is to pass laws, which they are often authorized to do by the state constitution or state laws. The ordinances passed by the board of county commission are often not applicable to municipalities, but only to unincorporated areas within the county. The ordinances passed by the commission are subject to the state’s constitution, laws, and statutes.

Development or approval of the county budget is often a major responsibility of the county commission. A related task of the commission is to establish the tax rates, known as setting levies, so that county clerks know the amount to collect from residents. The taxes that are collected provide the funds needed to operate the county. Commissioners may also be asked to sit on other boards within the county. They are often given the authority to select board members for other boards as well.

County departments are often run by a department head who is appointed by the county commission, as the commission is also charged with overseeing other departments. For example, the head of the public records department reports to the board of county commissioners, and it’s often within the board's discretion to retain or fire that person. Some commissioners hire an intermediary to handle the daily tasks of overseeing county departments. That person is sometimes called the county executive. State laws may require some department heads to be elected by county residents and not appointed by county commissioners.

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