The Way We're Governed

Counties were originally created as administrative subdivisions of state government to carry out a variety of state programs and policies, including collecting taxes, overseeing elections, conducting courts of law, filing official records, maintaining roads and providing for the welfare of their residents.

Counties were conceived by a rural society that looked to government to keep the records straight and the justice swift. To help Georgia counties administer state programs and conduct state courts, the first state constitution in 1778 originally created four elected county officers: the Sheriff, the Tax Commissioner, the Clerk of the Superior Court and the Judge of the Probate Court.

The position of County Commissioner was created nearly 100 years later in 1868 to administer the general operations of the county. Over the years, the sole Commissioner was replaced by Boards of Commissioners in 150 of 159 Georgia counties, and Georgia is now the only state with counties governed by a sole Commissioner.

Habersham County is divided into five districts. One Commissioner is elected from each district and serves a four-year term. The chairman and vice chairman of the County Commission are elected each year by the five member Board at the first meeting in January.

Beyond the powers assigned to the constitutional officers, the Board of Commissioners is the county governing authority and fills the primary policy-making role and oversees the executive function.  The Board enacts resolutions and ordinances for the general health, safety and welfare of the residents of Habersham County.  It is also responsible for developing and approving the annual budget, authorizing expenditures, levying taxes necessary to finance the operation of the county, maintaining county infrastructure and planning for future service needs. 

Habersham County operates under a Commission-Manager form of government.  The Board appoints the County Manager and County Attorney.  The County Manager oversees the day-to-day operations of County departments and has the authority to appoint and remove department heads. 

Constitutional officers have primary functions as outlined below but are dependent on the Board of Commissioners for general operating funds. 

The Sheriff enforces the law, maintains peace in the county, and serves as the jailer.

The Tax Commissioner maintains all the county's tax records and collects and pays tax funds to the state and local governments. The Tax Assessor Board and Board of Equalization were established to ensure that everyone pays his or her fair share of taxes.

The Clerk of the Superior Court is the primary record keeper for the county court system. The office functions to maintain all the court records and supervises the registration of property transactions. Each Board of Commissioners also has its own County Clerk, who is responsible for keeping the records for the Board.

The Judge of the Probate Court oversees matters pertaining to vital records, marriage licenses, guardianships, and wills; and administers public oaths of office. Although the Judge of the Probate Court originally conducted elections, today the state has created a local Board of Elections in almost every county to handle these responsibilities.