What Does a County Executive Do?

A county executive often presides over council meetings.

The county executive is the top official elected or appointed to a regional government in the United States. This official works with a county council to create policies that enable the regional government to act. An executive can use veto power over resolutions passed by the county council to thwart ineffective or costly proposals. County executives oversee the county’s day-to-day operations, including human resources, waste management, and land use policies. An important duty of a county executive is to work with local residents to resolve issues within the authority of the county government.

County executives can coordinate garbage collection.

County executives work with individual members of the county’s elected council as well as the entire council to assist their constituents. An executive meets with subcommittee chairs regularly to develop agendas and discuss potential issues. The county executive usually presides over council meetings in conjunction with the senior member. Additional duties on the board may include scheduling special hearings and arbitrating disputes between board members. This legislative function may include a voting function, if county laws do not grant veto power to the executive.

The relationship between an executive and board members can be contentious if the executive has veto power. County executives with veto power can overturn measures passed by the council. County laws generally allow the board to override the executive’s veto with votes from a large majority of the board.

Most of a county executive’s responsibilities deal with the efficient operation of county offices on a daily basis. The executive oversees human resources and payroll specialists to hire new employees while managing salary and benefit costs. County executives work with mayors and other local authorities to coordinate garbage collection and recycling. The executive’s office can also coordinate with regional authorities to address environmental issues. Land use policies, including creating permit applications and maintaining public lands, often originate from the county executive.

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County residents often turn to the executive’s office for leadership on regional issues. This responsibility drives county executives to interact with constituents by letter and in person. Assistants and interns in the executive’s office handle resident correspondence with guidance from the executive. Another form of constituency outreach is a series of office hours each month where the county executive sits down with residents to discuss county affairs. Executives often schedule county-wide forums when major resolutions are pending at the county council.

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