County leaders conduct local elections, implement state and federal laws, and provide public services, especially for residents who live outside incorporated city limits. All elected county offices are held for a four-year term.
Court of Commissioners
These bodies serve as a board of directors that governs the government of the county, much like how a city council governs a municipality. The court of commissioners passes a county budget and tax rate, approves county contracts, and calls bond elections to fund roads and construction. This is often where politics or disagreements take place over funding priorities or taxes, said Drew Landry, assistant professor of government at South Plains College.
The Court of Commissioners plays an important role in elections by appointing election judges who oversee polling stations in each constituency. The court also conducts official counting of local votes for county and state elections and may appoint the county clerk or an election administrator to serve as the registrar of voters instead of the county assessor-collector.
Counties have less leeway to adopt policies and often have to lobby the state legislature to expand or change the scope of their work, said Jen Crownover, Comal County Commissioner and County First Vice President. Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas.
“Everything we do must be found in law,” she said. “In the city [government], it’s the contrary. As long as it’s not against the law and they have the support, they can do it.
The county judge presides over the court of commissioners in the same way that mayors preside over municipal councils. Despite the title, county judges do not need to be judges or have a legal background.
A county judge can also issue disaster declarations to request assistance from other agencies and enact emergency measures, as permitted by law. This gives county judges a lot of power in emergencies, but they must be backed by the commissioners’ court to pursue declarations and emergency measures, Tarrant County Judge B. Glen Whitley said. , president of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas.
In smaller counties, county judges may also perform judicial duties, including presiding over tort and minor civil cases and justice of the peace appeals, according to the Texas Association of Counties.
Each county has four commissioners elected to represent four different county constituencies or districts in the court of commissioners. Commissioners are responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads in their constituencies.
Commissioners are elected in staggered terms. This year, statewide commissioners for local precincts two and four are up for election, Landry said.
County treasurers look after county funds, working with banks to receive and deposit county revenue, distributing funds as directed by the court of commissioners, and accounting for expenses and funds. In some counties, treasurers may also prepare payroll, act as human resources officers, be designated to invest funds and assume certain auditing responsibilities in counties without a county auditor, according to the Texas Association of Counties.
In addition to county taxes, assessor-collectors may collect taxes for other taxing entities, such as schools and cities, as well as other state and county fees. They can also handle motor vehicle and boat title transfers and registrations, according to the Texas Association of Counties, and register voters. In some cases, they can also organize elections.
A county clerk keeps records and performs administrative duties for county courts and commissioners’ courts. This includes keeping public records – such as birth and death certificates, business names and trademarks – issuing marriage licenses and taking depositions. In most counties, clerks also serve as chief electoral officers, according to the Texas Association of Counties.