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.
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 3,034 county governments, 19,429 municipal governments, and 16,504 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 format.
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...