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Regional and Local Officials

History

The first U.S. colonies adopted the English shire form of government. This form was 1,000 years old and served as the administrative arm of both the national and local governments; a county in medieval England was overseen by a sheriff (a title which comes from the original term shire reeve) appointed by the crown and was represented by two members in Parliament.

When America's founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they didn't make any specific provisions for the governing of cities and counties. This allowed state governments to define themselves; when drawing up their own constitutions, the states essentially considered county governments to be extensions of the state government.

City governments, necessary for dealing with increased industry and trade, evolved during the 19th century. Population growth and suburban development helped to strengthen local governments after World War I. County governments grew even stronger after World War II, due to counties' rising revenues and increased independence from the states. The National Association of Counties states that today's counties are "the most flexible, locally responsive and creative governments in the United States," and that they "vividly express" the slogan "Think globally, act locally."

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