County seat

Last updated

A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or civil parish. The term is used in Canada, China, Romania, Taiwan and the United States. County towns have a similar function in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and historically in Jamaica.

The seat of government is "the building, complex of buildings or the city from which a government exercises its authority".

Capital city Primary governing city of a top-level (country) or first-level subdivision (country, state, province, etc) political entity

A capital city is the municipality exercising primary status in a country, state, province, or other administrative region, usually as its seat of government. A capital is typically a city that physically encompasses the government's offices and meeting places; the status as capital is often designated by its law or constitution. In some jurisdictions, including several countries, the different branches of government are located in different settlements. In some cases, a distinction is made between the official (constitutional) capital and the seat of government, which is in another place.

A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposes, in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French conté or cunté denoting a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count (earl) or a viscount. The modern French is comté, and its equivalents in other languages are contea, contado, comtat, condado, Grafschaft, graafschap, Gau, etc..

Contents

Function

In most of the United States, counties are the political subdivisions of a state. The city, town, or populated place that houses county government is known as the seat of its respective county. Generally, the county legislature, county courthouse, sheriff's department headquarters, hall of records, jail and correctional facility are located in the county seat, though some functions (such as highway maintenance, which usually requires a large garage for vehicles, along with asphalt and salt storage facilities) may also be located or conducted in other parts of the county, especially if it is geographically large.

County (United States) Subdivision used by most states in the United States of America

In the United States, a county is an administrative or political subdivision of a state that consists of a geographic region with specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority. The term "county" is used in 48 U.S. states, while Louisiana and Alaska have functionally equivalent subdivisions called parishes and boroughs, respectively.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders. Four states use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.

A county seat is usually, but not always, an incorporated municipality. The exceptions include the county seats of counties that have no incorporated municipalities within their borders, such as Arlington County, Virginia (where the county seat is the entire county [1] ). Ellicott City, the county seat of Howard County, is the largest unincorporated county seat in the United States, followed by Towson, the county seat of Baltimore County, Maryland. Likewise, some county seats may not be incorporated in their own right, but are located within incorporated municipalities. For example, Cape May Court House, New Jersey, though unincorporated, is a section of Middle Township, an incorporated municipality. In some of the colonial states, county seats include or formerly included "Court House" as part of their name, (e.g. Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia).

Arlington County, Virginia County in the United States

Arlington County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia, often referred to simply as Arlington or Arlington, Virginia. The county is situated in Northern Virginia on the southwestern bank of the Potomac River directly across from the District of Columbia, of which it was once a part. The county is coterminous with the U.S. Census Bureau's census-designated place of Arlington. Arlington is considered to be the second-largest "principal city" of the Washington metropolitan area.

Ellicott City, Maryland Census-designated place in Maryland, United States

Ellicott City is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in, and the county seat of, Howard County, Maryland, United States. Part of the Baltimore metropolitan area, its population was 65,834 at the 2010 census, qualifying it as the largest unincorporated county seat in the country.

Howard County, Maryland County in the United States

Howard County is a county in the central part of the U.S. state of Maryland. As of the 2010 census, the population was 287,085. Its county seat is Ellicott City.

Canada

In the Canadian provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, the term "shire town" is used in place of county seat.

Prince Edward Island Province of Canada

Prince Edward Island is a province of Canada and one of the three Maritime Provinces. It is the smallest province of Canada in both land area and population, but it is the most densely populated. Part of the traditional lands of the Mi'kmaq, it became a British colony in the 1700s and was federated into Canada as a province in 1873. Its capital is Charlottetown. According to Statistics Canada, the province of PEI has 155,318 residents.

New Brunswick province in Canada

New Brunswick is one of four Atlantic provinces on the east coast of Canada. According to the Constitution of Canada, New Brunswick is the only bilingual province. About two thirds of the population declare themselves anglophones and a third francophones. One third of the population describes themselves as bilingual. Atypically for Canada, only about half of the population lives in urban areas, mostly in Greater Moncton, Greater Saint John and the capital Fredericton.

Nova Scotia Province of Canada

Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime Provinces, and one of the four provinces that form Atlantic Canada. Its provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second-smallest of Canada's ten provinces, with an area of 55,284 square kilometres (21,300 sq mi), including Cape Breton and another 3,800 coastal islands. As of 2016, the population was 923,598. Nova Scotia is Canada's second-most-densely populated province, after Prince Edward Island, with 17.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (45/sq mi).

Taiwan

Miaoli City is the county seat of Miaoli County. Miao Li Xian Zheng Fu Miaoli County Government - panoramio.jpg
Miaoli City is the county seat of Miaoli County.

County seats in Taiwan are the administrative centers of the counties. Currently there are 13 county seats in Taiwan, which are in the forms of county-administered city, urban township or rural township.

County (Taiwan) one of the administrative divisions of Taiwan

A county, constitutionally known as a hsien, is an administrative division unit in Taiwan. Under the administrative structure of Taiwan, it is with the same level of a provincial city. Historically the counties were under the jurisdiction of provinces, but after the streamlining of provinces in 1998, they are all directly led by the central government.

A county-administered city ), is a unit of administrative division in Taiwan. Under the administrative structure of Taiwan, it is with the same level of a township or a district. Such cities are administrated by counties. It is also the lowest-level city of Taiwan, below a provincial city and a special municipality. There are 14 county-administered cities currently.

Townships are the third-level administrative subdivisions of counties of Taiwan, along with county-controlled cities. After World War II, the townships were established from the following conversions on the Japanese administrative divisions:

Lists of Taiwan county seats by county

Douliu County-administered city

Douliu is a county-administered city and the county seat of Yunlin County, Taiwan. It is also the political and economic center of the county. Douliu City is served by National Highway No. 3.

Hualien City County-administered city in Hualien County, Taiwan

Hualien City is a county-administered city and the county seat of Hualien County, Taiwan. It is located on the east coast of Taiwan on the Pacific Ocean, and has a population of 106,368 inhabitants.

Jincheng, Kinmen Urban township in Kinmen, Republic of China

Jincheng Township is an urban township on the southwestern corner of the island of Kinmen (Quemoy). It is the county seat of Kinmen County, Fujian Province, Republic of China (Taiwan). Jincheng also administers Dongding Island (東碇) 26 km (16 mi) to the south-southwest. In March 2012, it was named one of the Top 10 Small Tourist Towns by the Tourism Bureau.

United States

Many county seats in the United States feature a historic courthouse, such as this one in Renville County, Minnesota, pictured in May 2015. Renville County Courthouse MN.jpg
Many county seats in the United States feature a historic courthouse, such as this one in Renville County, Minnesota, pictured in May 2015.

U.S. counties with more than one county seat

Most counties have only one county seat. However, some counties in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont have two or more county seats, usually located on opposite sides of the county. An example is Harrison County, Mississippi, which lists both Biloxi and Gulfport as county seats. The practice of multiple county seat towns dates from the days when travel was difficult. There have been few efforts to eliminate the two-seat arrangement, since a county seat is a source of pride (and jobs) for the towns involved.

There are 36 counties with multiple county seats (no more than two each) in 11 states:

Other variations

New England

In New England, the town, not the county, is the primary division of local government. Historically, counties in this region have served mainly as dividing lines for the states' judicial systems. Connecticut (since 1960) and Rhode Island have no county level of government and thus no county seats. In Vermont, Massachusetts, [3] and Maine [4] the county seats are legally designated shire towns. County government consists only of a Superior Court and Sheriff (as an officer of the court), both located in the respective shire town. Bennington County has two shire towns (Manchester for the North Shire, Bennington for the South Shire), but the Sheriff is located in Bennington. In Massachusetts, most government functions which would otherwise be performed by county governments in other states are performed by town or city governments (there are no unincorporated areas in the state; that is, all land area in the state is within either a town or a city). As such, Massachusetts has dissolved many of its county governments, and the state government now operates the registries of deeds and sheriff's offices in those counties.

Virginia

In Virginia, a county seat may be an independent city surrounded by, but not part of, the county of which it is the administrative center; for example, Fairfax City is both the county seat of Fairfax County and is completely surrounded by Fairfax County, but the city is politically independent of the county.

South Dakota

Two counties in South Dakota (Oglala Lakota and Todd) have their county seat and government services centered in a neighboring county. Their county-level services are provided by Fall River County and Tripp County, respectively. [5]

Louisiana

In Louisiana, which is divided into parishes rather than counties, county seats are referred to as parish seats.

Alaska

Alaska is divided into boroughs rather than counties; the county seat in these case is referred to as the "borough seat"; this includes six consolidated city-borough governments (one of which is styled as a "municipality"). The Unorganized Borough, which covers 49% of Alaska's area, has no county seat or equivalent.

Lists of U.S. county seats by state

The state with the most counties is Texas, with 254, and the state with the fewest counties is Delaware, with 3.

See also

Related Research Articles

A shire is a traditional term for a division of land, found in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and some other English-speaking countries. It was first used in Wessex from the beginning of Anglo-Saxon settlement, and spread to most of the rest of England in the tenth century. In some rural parts of Australia, a shire is a local government area; however, in Australia it is not synonymous with a "county", which is a lands administrative division.

An independent city or independent town is a city or town that does not form part of another general-purpose local government entity.

Windham County, Vermont County in the United States

Windham County is a county located in the U.S. state of Vermont. As of the 2010 census, the population was 44,513. The county's shire town (seat) is Newfane, and the largest municipality is the town of Brattleboro.

Bennington County, Vermont County in the United States

Bennington County is a county in the U.S. state of Vermont. As of the 2010 census, the population was 37,125. The shire towns are jointly Bennington and Manchester. Its largest municipality is the town of Bennington. The county was created in 1778.

A civil township is a widely used unit of local government in the United States that is subordinate to a county. The term town is used in New England, New York, and Wisconsin to refer to the equivalent of the civil township in these states. Specific responsibilities and the degree of autonomy vary based on each state. Civil townships are distinct from survey townships, but in states that have both, the boundaries often coincide and may completely geographically subdivide a county. The U.S. Census Bureau classifies civil townships as minor civil divisions. Currently, there are 20 states with civil townships.

An incorporated town is a town that is a municipal corporation.

Local government in the United States governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state

Local government in the United States refers to governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state. Most states and territories have at least two tiers of local government: counties and municipalities. In some states, counties are divided into townships. There are several different types of jurisdictions at the municipal level, including the city, town, borough, and village. The types and nature of these municipal entities vary from state to state.

Borough (United States) administrative division at the local government level in the United States

A borough in some U.S. states is a unit of local government or other administrative division below the level of the state. The term is currently used in six states:

New England town Basic unit of local government in each of the six New England federated states of the United States

The New England town, generally referred to simply as a town in New England, is the basic unit of local government and local division of state authority in each of the six New England states and without a direct counterpart in most other U.S. states. New England towns overlay the entire area of a state, similar to civil townships in other states where they exist, but they are fully functioning municipal corporations, possessing powers similar to cities in other states. New Jersey's system of equally powerful townships, boroughs, towns, and cities is the system which is most similar to that of New England. New England towns are often governed by a town meeting legislative body. The great majority of municipal corporations in New England are based on the town model; statutory forms based on the concept of a compact populated place are uncommon, though they are prevalent elsewhere in the U.S. County government in New England states is typically weak at best, and in some states nonexistent. Connecticut, for example, has no county governments, nor does Rhode Island. Both of those states retain counties only as geographic subdivisions with no governmental authority, while Massachusetts has abolished eight of fourteen county governments so far. With few exceptions, counties serve mostly as dividing lines for the states' judicial systems.

The following is a list of lists of the cities, towns and villages of the United States separated by state, territory or district name.

In the United States, the meaning of "village" varies by geographic area and legal jurisdiction. In many areas, "village" is a term, sometimes informal, for a type of administrative division at the local government level. Since the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from legislating on local government, the states are free to have political subdivisions called "villages" or not to and to define the word in many ways. Typically, a village is a type of municipality, although it can also be a special district or an unincorporated area. It may or may not be recognized for governmental purposes.

A Vermont municipality is a particular type of New England municipality. It is the basic unit of local government.

In the United States, an independent city is a city that is not in the territory of any county or counties with exceptions noted below. Of the 41 independent U.S. cities, 38 are in Virginia, whose state constitution makes them a special case. The three independent cities outside Virginia are Baltimore, Maryland; St. Louis, Missouri; and Carson City, Nevada. The U.S. Census Bureau uses counties as its base unit for presentation of statistical information, and treats independent cities as county equivalents for those purposes. The most populous of them is Baltimore, Maryland.

References

  1. "Counties in Virginia and the Location of Their Seats of Government" (PDF). Virginia Commission on Local Government.
  2. Coffee County, Alabama. "History of Coffee County". Archived from the original on 2011-10-27. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  3. "MGL c. 231, s. 82" . Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  4. "Title 33, §701: Office in shire town". mainelegislature.org.
  5. Sdcounties.org. "Shannon County, South Dakota". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2012.