Commissioners & Council Members

Most counties in Utah are governed by an elected group of three county commissioners – this is the most common and traditional form of county government administration in the state.

However, a handful of Utah’s 29 counties are governed by an alternative form of administration called a county council. Councils, which are also made up of elected officials, can have any odd number of members from three to nine people who serve in that capacity.

Commissions and Councils are also a little bit different in that commissions oversee two important areas of responsibility within the county, while councils oversee one and the county must either elect or appoint an executive to handle the other. These two areas are known as legislative powers and executive powers.

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County sheriff

The county sheriff is arguably the most visible among all the elected officials because they, along with all of their deputies, are out in the public ensuring public safety for citizens and visitors.

Along with a sheriff’s general qualifications to serve, they are required to satisfy rigorous annual training to maintain their certification. These skills prepare them for handling all sorts of physically and mentally tough situations all peace officers potentially face.

There are four main areas sheriffs are responsible for, which are law enforcement, prison management, various kinds of civil duties, and involvement with certain emergency situations.

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County Attorney

The county attorney oversees two important areas of legal representation for the county, serving as a criminal prosecutor and a legal representative in civil cases involving the county.

Depending on the size of the county, some counties divide these responsibilities among the elected county attorney and one or more appointed deputy attorneys. Some smaller counties can also rely on prosecution and civil services from an appointed attorney who lives outside the county.

As a public prosecutor, the attorney’s main duties include the prosecution of people who violate county ordinances or state criminal laws within county jurisdictions. However, this doesn’t include city infractions or misdemeanors, as those are handled by city attorneys.

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County Auditor

Think of the county auditor as an independent control or voice that represents every citizen, ensuring that county funds are properly spent and accounted for.

In most counties, the county auditor – with some help from the county treasurer – functions much the same as a chief financial officer would in the private sector. They oversee all money received and distributed by the county to provide a wide variety of important services to the community.

This involves carefully reviewing and approving all vouchers, requisitions, and purchase orders watching especially for things that are either new or different than normal. If they spot something that is out of the ordinary, the county auditor can pause the process to gather more information before moving ahead.

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County Clerk

The county clerk wears lots of different hats running elections, maintaining county records, issuing and recording marriage licenses, and helping citizens with passports.

The right to vote is the central piece of living within a democracy, and helps to preserve all other rights we enjoy as citizens of the United States. As such, county clerks are one of the gatekeepers of democracy, protecting the integrity and accuracy of elections.

To do this, county clerks work closely with political parties and candidates running for office to ensure they have followed each step necessary in the process. Clerks also must determine the best methods and procedures for each election – such as in-person or by-mail voting.

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County Recorder

Let’s visit the county recorder’s office to see what they do. The job of the county recorder is to maintain and preserve official records within the county – mainly documents involving property, boundaries and annexations, but also others such as liens, mortgages, agreements, notices, and even military discharges.

The county recorder’s main responsibility is a very important first step in Utah’s property tax system, which is to provide accurate information about each property in the county. In January of each year, county recorders supply the county assessor’s office with this official record which indicates each property’s location, size, boundaries, and ownership.

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County Surveyor

As one of the only licensed county officials in Utah, the county surveyor’s job is to create and manage safeguards that protect every citizen’s right to own and quietly enjoy property.

This has always been an important part of local government and was one of the first of four locally-elected offices ever created in Utah, along with the county recorder, water master, and marshal (now called sheriff). Each job was viewed as critical to the foundation and welfare of an organized community. In fact, three of the four people depicted on Mt. Rushmore were county surveyors at one time.

Thomas Jefferson developed the idea of creating the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) as a means to create accurate, organized boundaries and descriptions to enable the sale and settlement of western lands that prepared regional areas for statehood. The US Congress adopted the system through the Land Ordinance of 1785. This same system is utilized and protected by county surveyors to this day, who are one of only a few licensed elected officials.

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County Treasurer

Think of the treasurer as the banker for the county. Their main job is to maintain a personal connection with each taxpayer and every local government as they receive property tax deposits and safeguard that money until it’s time to spend it.

But they’re also smart with the money, investing it responsibly and accurately until it’s time to distribute it.

Here’s how the property tax process works. Property owners pay taxes on their land and buildings. For most, that means their house and land, but it can also mean land owned by businesses.

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County Assessor

The County Assessor has the very important job of calculating the fair market value of every property within their county. That includes land and buildings, known as “real property.”

But County Assessors also compute values for other kinds of property known as “personal property.” Personal property includes business furnishings and equipment, motor vehicles, and manufactured homes.

It sounds simple enough, but establishing a value that is both fair and accurate isn’t easy because no two properties are exactly alike. In fact, county assessors complete special training and are required to be licensed to do their job.

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This information was created by Utah Counties Matter, if you have more questions regarding the above content please visit their site. 

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