Most counties in Utah are governed by an elected group of three county commissioners – this is the most common and traditional form of county government administration in the state.
However, a handful of Utah’s 29 counties are governed by an alternative form of administration called a county council. Councils, which are also made up of elected officials, can have any odd number of members from three to nine people who serve in that capacity.
Commissions and Councils are also a little bit different in that commissions oversee two important areas of responsibility within the county, while councils oversee one and the county must either elect or appoint an executive to handle the other. These two areas are known as legislative powers and executive powers.
Legislative powers have to do with the county’s ability to create laws and ordinances that are designed to protect the rights and wellbeing of citizens and property within the county. But they also have control over the raising and spending of county government funds for functions and services provided within its boundaries.
Executive powers are more of the day-to-day decisions that need to be made to keep the county running. This could include supervision of departments, personnel issues, planning for improvements, reviewing expenses and performance, negotiating and signing contracts, and signing deeds, among other duties.
While county commissions, councils, and executives have lots of supervision and oversight, it does not extend to other elected county officials, such as assessors, attorneys, auditors, clerks, recorders, sheriffs, surveyors, and treasurers. These officials must also answer to voters for their ability to perform the duties of their office.
Commissions and Councils are required to hold regularly scheduled meetings that the public is encouraged to attend. These meetings are an opportunity for citizens to learn more about and have a voice in things such as county budgets, laws and ordinances that are created, reports on current projects and future planning, appointments to committees, and many other items.
Commissions and councils are just one important office at your county. Without their ability to oversee important legislative and executive responsibilities and decisions, it would be difficult for counties to move forward on policies and services that impact the lives of every citizen.