In Georgia, the county is the center of political and cultural life for a majority of the state's residents. Habersham County, created in 1818, ranks 44th in population among Georgia's 159 counties.
County governments 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. County services have expanded over the years to meet the growing demands of residents.
Every county conducts local courts of law, voter registration, and elections; sells motor vehicle tags; files official records of property ownership; builds and repairs county roads; probates wills; and administers welfare and public assistance programs. The 1983 Constitution added supplementary powers to this list of county duties. Counties are allowed to provide:
- Police and fire protection
- Garbage and solid waste collection and disposal
- Public health facilities and services, including hospitals, ambulances, emergency rescue, and animal control
- Street and road construction, including curbs, sidewalks, and street lights
- Parks, recreational areas, facilities, and programs
- Storm-water and sewage collection and disposal systems
- Water utilities
- Public housing
- Public transportation
- Lbraries, archives, and arts/sciences programs and facilities
- Terminal and dock facilities and parking facilities
- Codes, including building, housing, plumbing, and electrical codes
- Air quality control
- Planning and zoning
These supplementary powers address the demands of Georgia's residents to improve and maintain the state's quality of life. Cities and towns have long offered these services, but they were seldom seen outside the urban environment. As Georgia's population has grown, so too has the number of residents who want city-like services.
About 67 percent of Georgians live outside a city, and many expect the same quality of life as their city-dwelling friends and relatives.