Town and Village Government

Thousands of municipal jurisdictions are too small to qualify as city governments. These are chartered as towns and villages and deal with such strictly local needs as paving and lighting the streets; ensuring a water supply; providing police and fire protection; establishing local health regulations; arranging for garbage, sewage and other waste disposal; collecting local taxes to support governmental operations; and, in cooperation with the state and county, directly administering the local school system.

The government is usually entrusted to an elected board or council, which may be known by a variety of names: town or village council, board of selectmen, board of supervisors, board of commissioners. The board may have a chairman or president who functions as chief executive officer, or there may be an elected mayor. Governmental employees may include a clerk, treasurer, police and fire officers, and health and welfare officers.

Hamilton County Town meeting One unique aspect of local government, found mostly in the New England region of the United States, is the "town meeting." Once a year -- sometimes more often if needed -- the registered voters of the town meet in open session to elect officers, debate local issues and pass laws for operating the government. As a body, they decide on road construction and repair, construction of public buildings and facilities, tax rates and the town budget. The town meeting, which has existed for more than two centuries, is often cited as the purest form of direct democracy, in which the governmental power is not delegated, but is exercised directly and regularly by all the people.