Every day, counties help families in financial need, protect citizens from internal and external threats, and get them safely to work, school and market. Following is a very brief description of the primary county government offices. Please note that offices and duties may vary, as many counties have passed “Home Rule” charters, which empower the county to combine offices, change elected offices to appointments, or otherwise alter the duties of some county offices.
Following are brief descriptions of many of the offices you'll find in most counties. For more extensive descriptions, choose the links to the left or from the "About Counties" tab. Many offices have their own Associations, either with peer county offices or in some cases, including city and township peers. Some of these associations may also have their own websites, so we'll link to those whenever possible.
Auditors are responsible for a broad range of administrative duties. Their primary duties are chief financial officer, elections officer and secretary to the county commission.
Additional duties may include maintaining inventory of fixed assets, administering insurance coverage for county property, binding and storage of the official county newspaper as county record, and coordinating licenses and fees, such as hunting and fishing licenses, beer and liquor licenses, bingo and raffle permits, etc. In many counties, the Auditor assumes the duties of a human resources director.
Clerk of Court
With the elimination of county courts in 1995, district courts became responsible for the workload and positions of the county courts. The Clerk of District Court’s primary responsibility is administration of court records, but they also summon jurors, maintain exhibits and attend court when it is in session. They also issue passports, birth certificates and death certificates.
Administrative decisions for the county are not made by full-time employees of the county, but by an elected governing board of either three or five Commissioners. They are responsible for the county budget, county road department, social service administration, appointment of several offices and other boards, and many other county concerns.
Under State and Federal law, each county is required to set up an Emergency Management organization that will best serve the entire jurisdiction. Emergency Management is a comprehensive effort coordinating a wide range of public safety and awareness programs to ensure that a high level of preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery will be maintained for all known hazards. Agencies undertake continuous assessment, planning, training and exercising involving public agencies and the public sector. In doing this, Emergency Managers form strong partnerships with local emergency response agencies, such as fire, law enforcement, public works, volunteer agencies, public health, and emergency medical services.
Highway Engineer/Highway Superintendent
Most county citizens benefit from the work of the Highway Engineer or Superintendent, who is responsible for the counties’ roads and bridges. They run the county shop and all its activities and equipment, and work with engineering and construction firms on planning and providing for the transportation needs of county residents.
Human Service Zones
Although most social service programs are created and mandated by the federal and state government, the County Human Service office is responsible for carrying out many direct services to citizens. These services include food stamps, health care assistance, housing and home energy assistance, foster care, child/day care licensing, abuse and neglect intervention and many more ways to help people reach their maximum level of self-sufficiency. Each county has an office for delivering services, but the administration is handled by sixteen Human Service Zone Directors.
Planning & Zoning
Most counties have some form of a planning and zoning office. State law (NDCC 11-33) empowers counties to regulate property uses and empowers the county commission to create and appoint members to a planning and zoning board. Planning & Zoning offices address such issues as locating certain industries in a manner that protects the health and safety of residents in the area, for example industrial parks and livestock feedlots.
Whether as part of a Public Health Unit or an individual County Health Nurse, your county provides public health services like vaccinations, health education and so much more. All counties are members of the ND State Association of City and County Health Officials. You can learn much more about public health at their website, www.ndsaccho.org.
The information filed and recorded in the County Recorder’s office is used by the auditor, treasurer, commissioners and other county officials, along with the general public and business entities. These records primarily deal with real estate, such as patents, deeds, mortgages, bills of sale, security agreements, judgments, decrees, liens and certificates of sale.
Superintendent of Schools
The Superintendent's duties fill students’ lives with activities they will long remember, including spelling bees, MATHCOUNTS, and other local and state contests. Superintendents plan and conduct workshops for the training of school bus drivers. They assist teachers and administrators and provide information on school law and legislative matters. The County Superintendent of Schools assumes the primary responsibility in restructuring school district boundaries.
The Sheriff is perhaps the most familiar county official to most citizens. A Sheriff's duties include making arrests, enforcing all state and local laws, maintaining jail facilities, transporting prisoners and mentally ill patients, serving legal papers, holding public sales of property under court orders and attending district court.
Sheriffs have the authority to enforce laws in cities and towns as well as rural areas. While many of the responsibilities are regulated by the state and federal government, the Sheriff's primary role is still to preserve peace and order in the county.
State's Attorneys serve as legal counsel and advisor to the county. They act as prosecutor, representing the state in criminal cases. State's Attorneys provide guidance to county commissioners and officials in interpreting the meaning of the N.D. Century Code and legislation.
Tax Equalization Director/Assessment Officer
The responsibility of the Tax Equalization Director, also called the Assessment Officer, is to appraise all taxable property at a fair and equitable value. They also conduct educational campaigns to fully acquaint constituents with provisions of the property tax laws and responsibilities.
The Treasurer's office is used by taxpayers, state agencies, lending institutions and reality companies, providing easy access to tax and real estate records throughout the year to anyone who requests that information. Treasurers are responsible for keeping track of all property taxes, including delinquency and foreclosures, and act as accountant, financial manager and investor for the county.