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NE Government Center

Did you know that county governments were, at least in part, created to make life easier for residents? Florida’s first counties – Escambia and St. Johns – were formed in 1821.

Consider the travel situation in the 1800s. It couldn’t have been convenient for people to travel to their state capitol every time they needed to interact with government. We wouldn’t want to do that now, even though we have asphalt roads and comfortable cars. So, imagine having to make the journey via a horse-drawn wagon, on bumpy dirt roads, just to fill out paperwork or request information from the government.

County governments are not simply convenient, though. Many people would say that county government is the government level that most directly impacts residents.

Thanks to the formation of counties and the associated government structure, Polk County residents have the power to elect leaders such as county commissioners, the sheriff, the tax collector and many more. We elect the people who are responsible for managing our $2.5 billion budget, enforcing laws, carrying out state mandates, etc.

Since every county has different elected leaders, every county is unique. No two counties deliver services to residents in the same exact way, and local issues can be handled by local people developing local solutions.

From those two original counties, Florida has grown to 67 counties, making it easier than ever for the Sunshine State’s residents to get the services they need locally.

Why Are Counties Important?

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Polk County has five commissioners who govern the county by setting property tax rates and approving the county budget each year. They also adopt resolutions and local laws, and they make final determinations on local land use.

In Polk County, commissioners are elected to four-year terms and they can serve for a total of up to three terms. Each of the five commissioners represent a different district of the county, and they each must reside in the district they represent.

Polk’s commissioners typically meet at 9 a.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month, in the boardroom of the County Administration Building. Local policies are discussed, and established, at these meetings, which are open to the public. In fact, the public can address the commissioners at these meetings. The meetings, which are also televised, serve as opportunity for residents to gain and share information.

Commissioners are not the only elected officials in the county, though. Nor are they the sole policymakers. Polk County residents also elect the county’s sheriff, tax collector, supervisor of elections, property appraiser, and clerk and comptroller. Each of these officials have independent authority to develop policies for their area.

Polk County’s commissioners also appoint a county manager, who is responsible for overseeing the county government’s day-to-day activities. The county also employs more than 2,200 people, who help provide the government’s many services.

Ultimately, though, the people who vote the commissioners into office – Polk County’s residents – have the power to run the county government. By choosing which candidates to vote for, you can voice your opinion and show what’s important to you.

Who Governs Polk County?

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