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 many of the county government offices citizens encounter. 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. More detailed descriptions of several offices are linked at the left.
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.
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 three or five Commissioners. They are responsible for the county budget, county road department, social service administration and many other county concerns.
The role of the Emergency Manager includes the coordination of services to provide adequate response to any disaster or potential disaster in their county. To do this, the Emergency Manager coordinates activities necessary to mitigate, plan for, respond to, and recover from any emergency or disaster that may occur in the county.
The North Dakota State University Extension Service is a county, state and federal partnership that delivers informal education to help North Dakotans improve their lives, livelihoods and communities. Emphasis is on strengthening agriculture, stimulating communities, developing youths’ potential, building strong families and protecting the environment.
County Health Officials go by many titles, including County Nurse or Health Unit Administrator. Local Public Health Units across North Dakota have worked collaboratively together for many years. In August 2010, this relationship was formalized through a Joint Powers Agreement to form the ND SACCHO, a state association for ND Local Public Health Units. SACCHOs have been formed in many states across the nation to streamline communication between state and local public health agencies, and to stay apprised of national public health initiatives such as continuous quality improvement and public health accreditation. The purpose of ND SACCHO is to improve coordination of local public health department efforts across the state, enhance consistent messaging and education, improve training and advocacy and share best practices. For more information, visit www.ndsaccho.org.
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.
Planning and Zoning is central to the orderly development and building within our counties. The Comprehensive Land Use Plan, the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations are an essential part of planning, developing and building in the counties.
Planning and Zoning varies from county to county. It may be a county office, a city office that serves the county, or a county office that also serves cities within the counties. To learn more, please visit the ND Planning Association website at www.ndplanning.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.
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.
Although most social service programs are created and mandated by the federal and state government, the County Social 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.
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.
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.
The County Veterans Service Officer (VSO) advises local veterans and their dependents of their rights and entitlements under various federal and state laws. The VSO counsels and actively assists veterans with filling out the numerous and complex forms and paperwork required for obtaining benefits, which include compensation, pension, insurance, death benefits, hospitalization and education.