Responsibilities of Local Government

town hall building image by Alexey Stiop from

Local governments are those entities that govern jurisdictions such as counties, cities, towns, villages and townships. While federal and state governments bear many of the responsibilities of governing, the local government has its own list of responsibilities that can have an important bearing on daily life.


Local governments are responsible for holding elections, both to elect local officials and as part of state and national elections. Local governments must provide convenient polling places, hire workers and ensure the security and fairness of the process. At the same time, local governments must oversee their own elections and tabulate votes for positions such as mayor, county supervisor and other posts like sheriff's offices and school boards.


Local governments are also charged with building and maintaining local roads. While the federal and state governments handle interstate and major state routes, local governments are left in charge of local streets. In addition to building and repairing roads, local governments must also provide snow removal, drainage and other services to keep the roads safe.


Another responsibility of some local governments is the management of public utilities, like electricity, natural gas, water and garbage collection. In some cases local governments perform these tasks directly, while other local governments contract with a private utility provider to supply service to residents.

Public Safety

Local governments are also responsible for the majority of public safety agencies and provisions. Those include institutions like fire brigades, police departments and an ambulance service. In cases of emergency, federal and state personnel may be dispatched to help local public safety institutions. Local governments are responsible for staffing, as well as funding, those groups, though higher levels of government typically contribute grants and other support. Also, local governments must determine and enforce safety codes, including building codes and other ordinances.


Local governments work with state and federal governments to maintain a state school system. In some cases two or more local governments may share a single school system, especially in suburban and rural areas. The local government is responsible for hiring teachers, building school facilities and providing student transportation. State funding is an important part of local school district budgets, so adhering to state standards is another part of the local government's responsibility.

Parks and Recreation

Finally, local governments are responsible for maintaining a parks system and providing residents with safe recreation opportunities. The nature of this task varies widely with region, size and affluence of a community. Local parks and recreation facilities range from flower gardens along highways to state-of-the-art gymnasiums, libraries and sports fields.