What is County Government?

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What does Missoula County government do for residents? 

Missoula County is the second largest county within Montana, representing Bonner, Clinton, Condon, East Missoula, Evaro, Frenchtown, Greenough, Huson, Lolo, Missoula, Milltown, Orchard Homes, Piltzville, Swan, Seeley Lake and Turah.

The County is governed by a Board of County Commissioners; three elected officials serving staggered six-year terms who are up for election every two years. The commission has authority over all legislative, executive and administrative issues throughout the county not specifically reserved by law or ordinance to other elected officials.

For county residents living outside the Missoula city limits, Missoula County provides all local government services. Those living within the City of Missoula are served by both the City and County and are represented by both elected officials.  For example, a City resident is represented by their local city councilperson, the mayor and the county commission. A Missoula County resident, such as someone living in Lolo or Bonner, is represented solely by the commissioners. All county elected officials serve all city and county residents. Elected officials within Missoula County are the Auditor, Clerk & Recorder/Treasurer, Clerk of District Court, County Attorney, three County Commissioners, two Justices of the Peace, Sheriff and Superintendent of Schools.

Counties provide vital services from issuing birth certificates and marriage licenses to operating 9-1-1 call centers to managing elections. While balancing numerous administrative responsibilities, counties deliver essential services to ensure healthy, vibrant and safe communities.

All decisions and/or votes must be made in meetings open to the public, with the exception of decisions regarding confidential personnel and legal issues. The County’s Chief Administrative Officer has a great deal of responsibility, ensuring day-to-day responsibilities are addressed and that decisions made by elected officials are well executed across the County’s 30 departments.

Counties are one of America’s oldest forms of government, dating back to 1634 when the first county governments (shires) were established in Virginia. The organization and structure of today’s 3,069 county governments are chartered under state constitutions/laws and are tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of states and local areas.

No two counties are the same. Counties are diverse in structure and how services are delivered to communities. In general, states decide the roles and responsibilities of county governments. Counties are governed by locally elected officials who deliver and oversee services to residents.

Counties also play a major role in two distinct areas of justice and public safety: emergency response and preparedness and the criminal justice system. Counties keep communities safe by providing law enforcement and preventing crime. From patrolling the streets, to operating and maintaining the Missoula County Detention Facility, to serving as the arm of Justice Court and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, enforcement departments are on the front lines of public safety. Other key county officials, staff and departments who work in the areas of criminal and criminal justice are judges, court clerks, jail staff, 9-1-1 operators and advocates.

Counties invest heavily in local residents’ health and wellbeing, often serving as a safety net for low-income residents, or residents who are at-risk. The Missoula City-County Health Department protects residents by offering a wide range of services like administering flu shots, providing health information and training, and preventing public health emergencies. The county is also highly invested in providing behavioral and mental health services for residents, including those involved in the justice system.

Local government works best when residents are involved and voice their opinions. The public is always encouraged to attend meetings, provide comment, weigh in on issues and speak with their elected officials. Meeting agendas and minutes are provided online. The County’ Facebook and Twitter platforms share information on a daily basis and are a great way to stay up-to-date with County activities.

Have questions? Feel free to contact the Commissioners’ Office at (406) 258-4877 or bcc@missoulacounty.us.