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About Commissioners

What is a Commissioner?

The term Commissioner can refer to several different government positions, including both those held by elected officials as well as senior-level appointed posts.

In county government, a County Commissioner is a member of the County Commission, a legislative body similar to a city or town council. They may be elected as either at-large representatives or as representatives of a district within a county. County Commissioners are the policy makers for the county, setting high-level goals and evaluating long-term outcomes. These responsibilities include adopting budgets, approving taxation and financial decisions, adopting ordinances, and making land use decisions. Executive functions may be the responsibility of the County Commission, with one Commissioner appointed or elected as the County Executive. In other cases, executive functions may be delegated to an appointed professional serving as a County Executive, County Administrator, or a similar title. County Commissioners are usually considered part-time positions, and pay levels vary significantly from one jurisdiction to the next.

Commissioner may also refer to a position that is responsible for a specific department or function. At the state level, a Commissioner is usually a department head appointed by and reporting to the governor, such as Commissioner of Transportation or Commissioner of Revenue. Commissioners at the county and local level also serve as the head of a specific department or function, but they may be elected or appointed. Elected Commissioners often operate with a significant degree of independence and autonomy from the legislative body and chief executive official. Examples of Commissioners at the local level include Sanitation Commissioner and Police Commissioner. These are full-time, salaried positions.

Commissioner may also refer to the members of boards or commissions with more narrowly defined roles and responsibilities than a legislative body. These Commissioners include those who serve on elected boards and commissions as well as those appointed by the legislative body. This category includes numerous Commissioner positions, many of which operate on a volunteer basis. Examples include Zoning Commissioners, Housing Commissioners, and Parks Commissioners.