Civic Notes Throwback: Local Leaders 101

"Civic Notes Throwback" is a series where we highlight past civic articles from last semester's newsletters. This article was originally published on September 15, 2020.

Local Leaders 101

By Anjitha Nair and Maharajni Perla

Knowing who our locally elected leaders are and what they do is important because they make decisions that touch our lives on a daily basis. From public safety to education to parks and recreation, local leaders enact policy that impacts so many aspects of our lives.

Your voice and involvement in local government can be highly influential in their policy making!

In Texas, counties are run by a five-member Commissioners’ Court composed of four commissioners and a county judge. The judge’s duties vary by county - some judges are limited to serving on the commissioner’s court and certifying elections while others are a part of the judicial system as well.

Broadly speaking, areas within a county that are part of a city, called incorporated areas, are under the jurisdiction of the city, while the other, unincorporated areas are under the jurisdiction of the county. City and county governments often work together, but they’re not allowed to completely consolidate.

A typical city council consists of city council members and the city’s mayor. City council members are the legislators who make local laws. The mayor is a member of and presides over the city council, signing ordinances and resolutions of the council. Mayors serve as the face of city government; they address crises that face the city and are bridges to the state and federal governments. City managers are the city's chief executive, focusing on the daily activities, programs, and departments that allow a city to run smoothly. They oversee the city staff and personnel as well as manage the city’s budget.

There can be overlap in all of these local leaders’ roles and they may vary depending on your city, but they're all vital to ensure our communities are thriving. You can find out who your local officials are at!

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