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History of Pennsylvania Counties

The earliest responsibilities of counties included the maintenance of the local judicial system and the local prison.  Because prisons were often associated with debtors, counties in a backdoor fashion acquired some responsibilities for human services, and traditionally cared for the poor and the disadvantaged. 

With the advent of the 20th century, the role of county government came to be defined as it is known today.  County government now had both state and local dimensions.  Its primary responsibilities, traditional in nature, are as an agent of the state for purposes of administration of justice, maintenance of legal records, the conduct of elections, and administration of human services programs.  Counties have also been granted powers more commonly considered local, rather than state, in character.  Some of these powers include zoning, parks and recreation, emergency management and solid waste management.

Since the early 1960's, however, county government has experienced explosive growth, especially in the human services programs and criminal justice areas.  Counties have grown into the role of primary provider of state and federal social programs.  Counties have outgrown their former "caretaker" status and evolved into active providers of services for their inhabitants.   

County Commissioners

A three-member board of county commissioners constitutes the chief governing body of the county.  Statutory authority of the commissioners is both administrative and policy-making.  The county commissioners are vested with selective policy-making authority to provide certain local services and facilities on a county-wide basis.  Administrative powers and duties of county commissioners encompass registration and elections, assessment of persons and property, human services, emergency management, veterans' affairs, appointment of county personnel and fiscal management.

Regional Approach

Counties are widely perceived as the local government of the future.  They are the major human services provider in the political system.  Counties also have increasing responsibilities in areas that have a regional focus; emergency services, economic development, regional water and sewer management, and land use and growth development, to name a few.

Clinton County has become a full service regional government, fueled by modernization, urbanization, and suburbanization.  Clinton County is responsible for a full gamut of state-mandated  services, and locally involved in an array of emergency services, planning, information and coordination, the funding of innovative  municipal incentives, and providing support to municipalities and councils of government in other ways.

As local problems spill over existing municipal boundaries, it makes sense to talk about the emerging role in the governance system.  Municipal boundaries were created in a different era; they no longer match economic realities.  The term "governance" captures the interaction by the public, private and non-profit sectors in forging the policies and delivering wanted and needed citizen services to match economic realities despite outmoded jurisdictional boundaries.  Counties are being looked at as an effective forum for facilitating the cooperation and collaboration needed in a region for the new governance.

By taking a regional approach, Clinton County has become a model in the sharing of resources with our municipalities and neighboring counties.  Through this partnering, duplication of services and information is reduced or eliminated ultimately benefiting our taxpayers who do not bear the burden of their taxes funding a county project and a municipal project which achieves the same goal.  With recent advances in information technology, the sharing of information regionally has become a reality with endless possibilities.

Be a Part of County Government

Clinton County invites everyone to get involved in your local government.  The commissioners meet every Thursday at 10:00 am and commissioner work sessions are held every Monday morning.  All meetings, with the exception of personnel issues, are open to the public.

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