SIC 9131

This category covers councils and boards of commissioners or supervisors and such bodies in which the chief executive is a member of the legislative body itself.

NAICS Code(s)

921140 (Executive and Legislative Offices, Combined)

The U.S. government is distinguished by a strict separation of powers between federal and executive offices, as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Likewise, most state constitutions embody this unique and important American division of legislative labor. It serves to reduce the power that government has over its citizens. However, many local governments are largely devoid of this separation of powers. For the sake of simplicity and efficiency, city and county governmental units often combine administrative and lawmaking functions.

The three primary types of city governments are: mayor-council, commission, and council-manager. Under the mayor-council arrangement, the mayor is technically charged with overseeing executive functions, such as formulating policy, presiding over functions, and preparing the budget. The council acts as the legislative body and establishes ordinances. In reality, however, the mayor often controls the actions of the council and ensures that laws are properly enforced. Most large cities still use a mayor-council government.

Under a commission form of city government, several commissioners are elected to serve as heads of city departments. A presiding commissioner usually acts as the mayor, but the commission oversees both administrative and lawmaking functions. Council-manager governments work similarly, but a council selects a city manager to run the government. City manager responsibilities vary, but many managers act in both legislative and executive roles to some extent.

During the early 2000s, most county governments in the United States used the commission, or board, arrangement. In 2002, there were 3,043 county governments, 19,431 municipal governments, and 16,506 town/township governments in operation throughout the United States. At the county level, for example, more than one-fifth were structured with combined legislative and executive responsibilities. By 2003, slightly less than 60 percent of counties operated under the commission form.

County boards are typically comprised of three to five members elected from county districts, though boards range in size from 1 to more than 100 members. Consolidation of the three branches of government is most common in the South, but the majority of counties combine at least the executive and legislative offices—a legacy of the English governing system. In addition to traditional boards, an increasing number of states have moved to a county-manager system, in which the commission selects a manager to serve in a capacity similar to that of a city manager.

Also at the county level, voters typically elect several officials, or row officers, to handle specific executive functions. Elected county officer positions may include sheriff, prosecuting attorney, treasurer, county clerk, clerk of court, and many others. The degree of control that the county board or manager exercises over the row officers varies by county, but the responsibilities of the officers commonly include legislative and executive duties.

In the early 2000s, city managers earned an average of $92,338, and county managers earned an average of $107,500. They commonly had a mix of education and experience related to public administration, business, and politics. Employment of city and county managers will likely increase as more entities adopt that form of government.

Further Reading

National Association of Counties. "Basic Forms of County Government." 20 May 2003. Available from .

U.S. Census Bureau. Statistical Abstract of the United States:2002. Washington, DC. Available from .

U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-2003 Edition. Washington, DC. Available from .

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