The ABCs of elected office

Once elections pass and newly elected officials are sworn into office, that’s when our representatives get to work. But if you follow politics especially at the local level, you might hear titles being thrown around like “Commissioner” and “Lieutenant Governor”. What do those titles really mean? And what powers do those positions or offices hold? Keep reading to learn more about elected officials and offices at the state/local levels.

Attorney General 

Attorney General is a position that is held in all states. An Attorney General serves as the main legal advisor to the state government. In some cases, officials who serve in this role also have law enforcement duties. 

Board of Supervisors 

The Board of Supervisors is similar to a city council and has legislative and executive powers. A Board of Supervisors oversees county government in a handful of states including California and a few counties in New York. A Board of Supervisors can pass laws called ordinances. 

Commissioner 

In general, a Commissioner is a member of a group who has officially been given specific authority. States have many different types of commissioners, such as Agriculture Commissioner and Insurance Commissioner. A Natural Resources Commissioner is in charge of maintaining and protecting natural resources such as state parks. 

District Attorney 

A District Attorney is someone who has been elected or appointed by local government officials to represent the state government. Typically, District Attorney’s deal with cases for designated counties and are responsible for presenting those cases.  

Election Official 

There are different types of Election Officials, such as Chief Election Officials who have authority over elections for an entire state and local Election Officials who have authority at the county level. A local Election Official handles Election Day procedures to ensure that voting is conducted fairly. 

Fire Chief 

A Fire Chief or Fire Commissioner is the highest ranking officer in the fire department. While a Fire Chief deals with operation of the fire department, they may also provide assistance to the city manager or mayor. 

Governor 

Governors are executive positions held in all states. They have the power to implement state laws, issue executive orders and some have the authority to appoint state court judges. All Governors also have the ability to veto legislative measures. 

House of Representatives 

Just like at the Congressional level, some State Legislatures are composed of a Senate (smaller chamber) and House of Representatives (larger chamber). The State House of Representatives has the power to initiate tax legislation, for example. 

Insurance Commissioner 

The Insurance Commissioner is a state-level position in all states. Overall, the general role of this position is to serve as a consumer protection advocate and insurance regulator, according to Ballotpedia

Judge 

A judge is an elected or appointed official who deals with matters that are brought before a court. Judges at the state level can preside over the State Supreme Court, the State Court of Appeals or Superior Courts, for example. 

Lieutenant Governor 

Lieutenant Governors are considered the second-highest executive office in a state after the Governor. These are the people who would serve as Governor if the Governor were to resign. Five states do not have a Lieutenant Governor position, including Arizona and Oregon. 

Mayor 

Mayors are locally elected officials who have varying powers depending on the local government. There are two types of mayors, “strong’ and “weak”, which indicates how much authority they have. Most “weak” mayors serve in a Council-manager government, which means they have limited authority. “Strong” mayors serve in a Mayor-council government and have veto power. 

Ombudsman 

An ombudsman is an official who investigates complaints (usually lodged by private citizens) against businesses, government departments or other public entities, and attempts to resolve the conflicts or concerns raised, either by mediation or by making recommendations.

Public Lands Commissioner 

A Public Lands Commissioner is an elected official who is responsible for managing public lands within the state. States that have Public Lands Commissioners include New Mexico and Washington. 

Representative 

State Representatives are part of the legislative branch of state government and serve in their state’s House of Representatives. In short, State Representatives are involved in the process of creating state laws. 

Senator 

State Senators represent certain districts within their state and serve on committees. Elected officials in this position are also involved in state legislation. In California, for example, the State Senate works alongside the Governor to create laws and establish a state budget.  

Treasurer 

A State Treasurer is in charge of overseeing revenue and finances. Most states have Treasurers except for Texas and New York where these duties are performed by the controller. The position is considered part of the governor’s cabinet in some states. 

Village Trustee 

A Village Trustee is an elected official who serves on the Village Board of Trustees. A Village Trustee serves as a spokesperson for the area in state government issues. The Village Board of Trustees can be compared to a City or Town Council.

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