The County Landscape
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.
Stronger Counties. Stronger America.
Counties are so present in our everyday lives that we sometimes overlook the many ways they help our communities thrive. Often behind the scenes, 40,000 county elected officials and 3.6 million county employees are responsible for maintaining roads and bridges, caring for our physical and mental health, administering our elections, ensuring public safety, strengthening environmental stewardship, and so much more.