The importance which our state Constitution assigns to local control means that many governmental functions are the responsibility of local units rather than state agencies. Social services, emergency services including fire and medical response, land use regulation, and criminal justice are essential functions at the local level – and lean heavily on local budgets. Areas of the state not incorporated as municipalities (i.e., towns) rely on the county to help meet many of these demands. Areas which are included in municipalities (i.e., cities and villages) must cooperate with the county with regard to some of these functions.
An excellent introduction to the role of counties in Wisconsin, Wisconsin County Government: History, Services and Funding , as well as the Wisconsin County Official’s Handbook can be found on the website of the Wisconsin Counties Association.
The Local Government Center web site contains the following information about county government.
Fact Sheets and more
- Fact Sheet #19 – County Government in Wisconsin – (PDF file, 215 kb, 7 pages)
- Fact Sheet #8 – Self-Organized Counties – (PDF file, 23 kb, 2 pages)
- Fact Sheet #21 – Limits of County Board Administrative Authority – (PDF file, 137 kb, 6 pages)
- County Government Roles and Responsibilities – (PowerPoint file, 1025 kb, 60 slides). This presentation provides information on the basic structure of county government in Wisconsin and the roles of a county government officials.
- Tenure of Wisconsin County Executives, Administrators, and Coordinators (PDF file, 150 kb, 2 pages)
- Supermajority Votes of the County Board – (PDF file, 320 kb, 3 pages)
- County Government Roles and Responsibilities handout from 2016 County Officials Workshops
- 2020 County Redistricting Handbook
Strengthening County Government: Three Cs for Effectiveness – (PDF file, 854 kb, 5 pages). Local Government Center’s role in supporting county board officials.
Other Web Sites
Wisconsin Counties Association
Wisconsin City/County Management Association
Wisconsin County Governments – web sites of Wisconsin counties, where one exists
UW-Division of Extension–County and Area Offices
County Officials Workshops – Spring 2018
County government finds itself under increasing public pressure to “get it right.” With turnover on county boards averaging about 25% each election cycle, board members need opportunities to learn more about their roles and responsibilities.
In even-numbered years, following the spring elections, County Officials Workshops are offered at locations around the state.
Experts from UW-Extension’s Local Government Center and the Wisconsin Counties Association provide the information needed to become a more effective supervisor, and the opportunity to meet supervisors from other counties to learn how they operate and make decisions. View the 2018 County Officials Workshops brochure.
Extension and Counties
University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension represents a federal-state-county partnership involving land grant universities (such as the University of Wisconsin) that brings information and education directly to citizens on topics affecting their lives and livelihood. County Extension offices cooperate with the Local Government Center in making our resources available to you, and also providing a connection to the many other programming areas within Extension. We rely on the support and guidance of the Wisconsin Counties Association in developing many of these programs. In addition to distance education programs, we offer statewide workshops in even-numbered years, after the spring election, to orient and update county officials.