Career Profile: County Commissioner

Last month, we learned about City Council and what that job entails. This month, we're going to go up one more level--the County level--and learn about County Commissioners. County Comissioners usually serve on a board like the City Council. They're not always called Comissioners; other titles can be County Supervisor, Administrator, Executive or even CEO.

In Los Angeles County, they are called County Supervisors and serve on a board of 5 members. Can you imagine being a County Supervisor for LA County? They serve millions of people and deal with an economy of a small country. LA County Supervisors have a lot more responsibility than in smaller counties.

So what does a County Commissioner do? General duties include going over the annual budget, setting policies on land use in both urban and wilderness areas, and collecting taxes on the county level. Much like the city government, the county is in charge of maintaining infrastructure like roads, clean drinking water, and waste collection. They do a lot of what a City Council does but on a larger scale. The County is also tasked with carrying out state and federal policies or mandates on the county level.

A Board of Commissioners has legislative, executive, and quasi-judicial powers. Along with what was listed above, the board acts like the Executive Branch as its members are in charge of appointing most county officials. Although a few roles like Sherriff and Treasurer are up for election like Commissioners are.

Oakland County Board of Commissioners

Look at Oakland County, Michigan: Their board has 21 members!

In recent decades, there has been a push to make at least one member of the board the administrator or executive so it would be easier to carry out policy. In some cases, this member of the board is appointed by their fellow commissioners OR they are elected by the voters. Basically, there are no hard and fast rules to how a county government is structured, so I encourage you to look up your local county's website and see how its government is structured.

On average, a County Commissioner can make between $100-200,000 a year. That's a fairly considerable difference between City Council Members where it can range from next to nothing to $150,000. Even though, Commissioners are paid pretty well, they are up for re-election every two to four years (depending on the county). The time commitment on paper can look like a part-time job because Commissioners only need to come into the office for meetings and other business but outside of that, they are always on-call. A lot of time is spent out in the public meeting with constituents, attending social gatherings, doing research on important issues, etc.

Don't ask me how I found this (I was going down a Google deep dive) but there is a PDF presentation from Georgia that provides really specific information on the expectations of a County Commissioner. If the job description interests you, it's worth taking a look. It's concise and covers all the basics. There's some good advice in there that can apply to other local government positions.

How many members on the board does your county have? Would you be interested in running for County Commissioner? Let us know in the comments!