County government administrative structure, administration today—Part 2

Michigan county Government was organized around the idea that electing laypeople was the best form of local government. Later, needs started to shift toward a more central and professional public administration model.

Courthouse in Detroit | Kurt H. Schindler

Courthouse in Detroit | Kurt H. Schindler

County government was originally created as an extension of state government and with the Jackson/Jeffersonian philosophy that government is best run by elected laypeople. The organizers of county government sought to ensure there was a separation of financial duties, accountability and a trust in common folk elected by the people to serve. Part one of this two-part article details the historical perspective of county government in Michigan.

Today there are 65 Michigan counties with some form of central administrative organization. County administration provides day-to-day coordination and leadership for:

  • County staff
  • Budget development, monitoring and reporting
  • Personnel and labor relations
  • Purchasing
  • Building and grounds maintenance
  • Central services (data processing, communication systems, office service and support)
  • Accounting (optional)
  • Staff position to the county board

There are a number of different ways a county can choose to organize themselves administratively. The table here summarizes those choices:

Organizational Option

Legislative duties

Administrative duties

Veto Power

Other Notes

Who decides to organize this way

Number of counties organized this way

General Law, no administration

County Board of Commissioners

Clerk, Treasurer, finance committee, other standing committees of the county board

n/a

n/a

County Board of Commissioners

18

General law, Administrator or controller

County Board of Commissioners

Administrator (also known by various other names)

No

Statute specifies qualifications and responsibilities

Might be the chief accounting officer, purchasing agent, manages buildings and grounds

County Board of Commissioners

61

County Board of Commissioners

Controller

No

Statute specifies qualifications and responsibilities

2/3 vote of county board to dismiss.

Is chief accounting officer, purchasing agent, manages buildings and grounds

County Board of Commissioners

Unified Form, Alternate A

County Board of Commissioners

County Board-appointed County Manager

Yes

County board resolutions, budget line items

Strong executive administrative structure

County electorate

0

Unified Form, Alternate B

County Board of Commissioners

Elected County Executive

Yes

County board resolutions, budget line items

Strong executive administrative structure

4 year elected term of office

County electorate

2

(Bay and Oakland Counties)

Charter County

County Board of Commissioners

County Executive

Depends on charter

Specified in the charter.

County electorate (as well as selection of a charter commission and approving the charter)

2

(Wayne and Macomb Counties)

With any of the administrative forms of county government, the administrator, controller, manager and county executive cannot change the constitutional offices (elected officials: clerk, register of deeds, treasurer, prosecutor and sheriff) and has to abide by other details specified in charter or by board resolution.

Michigan State University Extension provides New County Commissioner workshops which focus on this, and much more information for those who were just elected to their County Board of Commissioners. These workshops are done in partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties. Additional training for county officials will take place during 2015 going into much more detail on specific topics. Watch the MSU Extension events web page for these.

Read Part 1: County government administrative structure, history

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