Depending on where you live, a county government may seem like an alien concept. In more than two-thirds of U.S. states, counties act as the primary governmental unit for local matters. They maintain their police and sheriff’s departments, run libraries, and public utilities, and build roads and parks that serve the entire community. Why do so many states empower counties? The answer lies in history and geography. Most residents live within a few miles of their county’s boundaries — which makes it easier for them to interact with county officials about local issues. Counties also tend to cover larger geographic areas than towns or cities, giving each one more power over regional affairs.
How to choose between town, city and county government
While each U.S. county is different, many factors are often the same in all three types of local government. If you’re not sure which type of local government is best suited for your community, take a close look at your local area. The following chart helps you decide which type of government is best for you.
– “Town government” – This type of government is found in most small cities and rural areas. Unlike cities that have populations of more than 35,000 people, towns are generally governed by a mayor and a board of selectmen who make decisions about public services.
– “City government” – This type of government is found in larger cities. Unlike towns and counties that generally have populations between 10,000 and 35,000 people, cities are governed by a mayor and a city council that makes decisions about public services.
– “County government” – This type of government is found in most rural areas of the country. Unlike towns and cities that have populations between 10,000 and 35,000 people, counties are larger geographic areas that have varying populations and powers depending on the state they’re in.
The pros and cons of county government
Counties are one of the oldest forms of local government in the U.S. They were designed for the sparsely populated areas of the country, where people often lived across political boundaries. This made it difficult for people to participate in public affairs, so counties were created to provide a forum for citizen-government interaction.
Because counties are often located in rural areas, they often have more power than cities or towns. They’re also an affordable option for state and federal governments that don’t require the same level of services as a city. Counties, however, often have high unemployment, making it difficult for residents to find jobs.
How many people live in a county?
Depending on the state, most counties have populations ranging from several thousand to several hundred thousand people. The counties with the largest populations may have millions of residents.
Which type of government do you live in?
Most states divide their population into counties to provide government services, but the federal government and some states use other boundaries, such as “parishes” or “precincts”. The federal government also has 53 territories that are administered by the Department of Defense, Coast Guard, and other federal agencies.
The three types of counties in America
Federal – Some states draw their county lines to fit the parameters of federal law — usually counties that are no smaller than 6 and no larger than 18. Other states use federal law as a guideline, but draw their county lines to suit their state’s needs.
State – Most states get it right and divide their population into counties according to state law. But some states use county lines that don’t follow state law.
Municipal – Some county governments are run by cities that are adjacent to the county. The terms “county” and “city” are often used interchangeably in this situation. Municipalities are frequently located near ports and other shipping areas, making them attractive locations for governments.