Counties are one of America’s original forms of government, dating back to 1634 when the first county governments (shires) were established in Virginia. The organization and structure of today’s 3,069 county governments are chartered under state constitutions or laws and are tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of the state and local areas.

Counties are governed by locally elected officials, including more than 19,350 county elected executives and board members responsible for counties’ budgets, policies and oversight. Additionally, more than 18,500 independently elected officers, often known as constitutional or row officers, provide essential leadership and management of county functions, such as auditors, assessors, clerks, coroners, district attorneys, elections, recorders, sheriffs, treasurers and others.

Though organizational structures vary, all county governments are on the front lines of building healthy, vibrant and safe communities.

Counties are vital to our nation's intergovernmental system

County governments, led by our elected and appointed officials, are instrumental partners in our nation’s intergovernmental system, which balances, divides and shares power and responsibilities between all levels of government. Counties are uniquely positioned to implement and administer vital intergovernmental systems, facilitate cooperation of all levels of government, and deliver results and impact for our residents and businesses at the community level.

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