Counties deliver essential services to Texans. They're the functional arm of state government and respond to local needs.
What's a County?

Counties have been around since before Texas became a state, and even before it was a republic. Under Spanish rule, the land was divided into municipios. When the Republic of Texas formed in 1836, those municipios became the first 23 counties. By the time Texas joined the United States in 1845, the new state comprised 37 counties.

Fast forward to today — 254 counties make up the Lone Star State. In each county, a team of locally elected and appointed county officials serves its community.

 

Watch a video and learn
how Texas Counties Deliver.

 

The Purpose of Counties and County Government

Counties, Distinctly Texas

How did we get to 254 Counties?

How Did We get to 254 Counties?

State vs. County vs. City

What's the Difference Between Your City, State and County Government?

Why Does my Property Tax Bill Seem So Big?

Why Does my Property Tax Bill Seem So Big?

How Does the Texas County Court System Work?

How Does the Texas County Court System Work?

Watch more videos!

 

What do counties do?
Provide Public Safety and Justice


Counties help keep Texans safe and secure. County government plays a significant role in both public safety efforts and the criminal justice system in Texas. They keep communities safe by providing law enforcement,the court system, jails, and emergency preparedness and response services in the event of natural and man-made disasters.

WHO’S INVOLVED? gavel
County sheriffs and constables are on the front lines of public safety and the criminal justice system every day in Texas. They patrol the streets, prevent crime, catch criminals, operate and maintain county jails and serve as an arm of the Texas court system.

County judges, justices of the peace, county and district attorneys, and county clerks all play big roles in the state court system, too, which is largely funded and administered by county government. Through the work of counties, criminals are prosecuted and justice is served, wills are probated, guardianships are handled and so much more.

Hold All Elections


When it comes to exercising your right to vote, your county makes sure this important step in the democratic process runs smoothly.

No matter what kind of election you’re voting in — for local school board members, or for your county officials, for the next governor or even the next president of the United States — counties make sure your vote counts.

WHO’S INVOLVED? Voting
County clerks and elections administrators conduct elections for all levels of government — local, state and federal. They set up precincts and polling places and coordinate the workers and volunteers that staff them. They keep voting records and track turnout. Ahead of all this work, tax assessor-collectors take on the task of registering voters and, in some counties, the role of conducting elections can also fall to them.

County Clerk icon Tax Assessor-Collector icon

 

Build & Maintain Roads and Bridges


County government helps keep Texans and the Texas economy moving. Counties build and maintain nearly half the roads in Texas. They also maintain one in five of the state’s bridges.

Counties do more than spread asphalt and pour concrete. Many counties participate in strategic metropolitan and regional transportation planning to help move Texans and commerce efficiently. Counties are responsible for connecting Texans, businesses and communities across the state and beyond.

WHO’S INVOLVED? Cones and signs
Among their many duties, county commissioners are responsible for the construction and maintenance of the county roads and bridges in their precinct. Many county judges and commissioners also participate in metropolitan and regional planning efforts.

Commissioner icon Judge icon

Keep Important Records Safe


From your birth, to marriage and starting family, from building a business to making a will and leaving a legacy for those you love, counties mark your most important milestones and keep your most important records safe.

WHO’S INVOLVED? Deeds and records
The clerk’s office maintains and preserves the official and permanent records for the county, the county’s residents and the court system. Some counties even keep safe records that date back more than 170 years, to the Republic of Texas era.

County Clerk icon District Clerk icon

Providing Health and Safety Services


From making sure trash is hauled away and not illegally dumped, to providing medical and mental health care, ensuring the health and welfare of county residents is another major area of responsibility. Counties can establish hospitals, emergency medical service districts and set up 9-1-1 systems. They provide indigent residents with health care in some cases, maintain medical clinics that provide preventative care like check-ups and immunizations. Many counties also help fund local mental health crisis services. County veterans’ services offices coordinate pensions, loans, transportation and other help for veterans and their families.

WHO’S INVOLVED? Collin Co. Indigent Health Care
The county commissioners court makes decisions about funding and implementing many of these programs, but the day-to-day work is done by various county departments. Connecting with many county services is as easy as dialing 2-1-1 or visiting your county courthouse.

Commissioners Court icon

Emergency Management


Counties are the first line of response in the event of an emergency — both natural and man-made. Counties are required to maintain an emergency management plan. These regularly updated and rehearsed plans describe when and how residents should be evacuated from an area. They can also include rules for curfews and access to disaster areas, and plans for maintaining county services during a disaster.

WHO’S INVOLVED? Emergency Management
The county judge is the head of emergency management in the county. The judge’s declaration of a disaster puts the local emergency plan into effect. The sheriff and constables offices, along with other offices, may assist in public safety or coordinate the continuation of county services through the disaster.

Judge icon Sheriff icon Constable icon

 

Who are county officials?

Local Public Servants

County government is the most responsive and transparent level of government in Texas, led by officials who live and work in the communities they serve. Local officials understand their county and its particular needs.

Each Texas county has a team of locally elected and appointed officials who work full time to provide hands-on essential services that make government work for the people of Texas.

Click an icon below to learn more about each county official.

County Judge icon County Commissioner icon Tax Assessor-Collector icon County Clerk icon District Clerk icon County Treasurer icon
Sheriff icon Justice of the Peace icon Constable icon County Attorney icon District Attorney icon County Auditor icon
County Judge & County Commissioners

Judge icon
  • Presiding officer of the Commissioners Court.
  • Represents the county in many administrative functions.
  • Serves as budget officer in counties with fewer than 225,000 residents.
  • Most have broad judicial duties, such as presiding over misdemeanor criminal and small civil cases, probate matters and appeals from the Justice of the Peace Court.
  • Serves as head of emergency management.
Learn More! Watch a video.

Commissioner icon

County Commissioner
  • As a member of the Commissioners Court, exercises broad policy-making authority.
  • Represents one of four precincts within the county.
  • Typically responsible for building and maintaining county roads and bridges within their precinct.

Commissioner icon
Commissioners Court

The Commissioners Court conducts the general business of the county and consists of the County Judge and four Commissioners. The Court:

  • Adopts the county’s budget and tax rate.
  • Approves all budgeted purchases of the county.
  • Fills vacancies in elective and appointive offices.
  • Sets all salaries and benefits.
  • Has exclusive authority to authorize contracts.
  • Provides and maintains all county buildings and facilities.
Tax Assessor-Collector
  • Calculates property tax rates for the county.
  • May collect taxes for cities, schools and other local taxing entities.
  • Processes motor vehicle title transfers.
  • Issues motor vehicle registration and licenses.
  • May process boat titles and registrations.
  • Registers voters and may conduct elections.
  • Collects various other fees for the state and county.


County and District Clerk

County Clerk icon
  • Serves as clerk and custodian of records for the Commissioners Court, Constitutional County Court and Statutory County Courts.
  • Acts as a recorder and custodian of important public records, including all bonds, deeds, birth and death certificates, assumed names and livestock brands, ensuring that records are maintained in a secure, archival manner.
  • Issues marriage licenses.
  • Services as chief elections officer in most counties.
Learn More! Watch a video.

District Clerk icon
District Clerk
  • Serves as clerk and custodian of all records for the District Courts.
  • Indexes and secures all court records, collects filing fees, and handles funds held in litigation and money awarded to minors.
  • Coordinates the jury panel section process.
  • May process passport applications.
  • Manages court registry funds.

In Texas, counties with a population of fewer than 8,000 (unless there has been a special election), the County Clerk also serves as the District Clerk and assumes all constitutional and statutory duties of both positions.

Treasurer
  • Receives and deposits all county revenues.
  • Acts as chief liaison between the county and depository banks.
  • Prepares the payroll.
  • Disburses funds upon the order of the Commissioners Court.
  • Records receipts and expenditures and reconciles bank statements.
  • May be designated as the county’s investment officer and required to submit regular reports on county finance to the members of the Commissioners Court.
  • May also act as the county’s human resources officer, employee benefits coordinator, risk manager and insurance coordinator.
  • May have some audit responsibilities in counties with no Auditor.

County Sheriff
  • Serves as a licensed peace officer and is responsible for enforcing the criminal laws of the state.
  • Manages and operates the county jail.
  • Provides security for the courts.
  • Serves warrants and civil papers.
  • Regulates bail bondsmen in counties with no bail bond board.
  • May serve as the Tax Assessor-Collector in counties with fewer than 8,000 residents.
Learn More! Watch a video.

Justice of the Peace
  • Hears traffic and other Class C misdemeanor cases punishable by fine only.
  • Hears civil cases with up to $10,000 in controversy.
  • Hears landlord and tenant disputes.
  • Hears truancy cases.
  • Performs magistrate duties.
  • Conducts inquests.

Constable icon
  • Serves as a licensed peace officer and performs various law enforcement functions, including issuing traffic citations.
  • Serves warrants and civil papers such as subpoenas and temporary restraining orders.
  • Serves as bailiff for Justice of the Peace Court.


County and District Attorney

County Attorney icon
  • Represents the state in prosecuting misdemeanor criminal cases.
  • Works with law enforcement officers in the investigation of criminal cases.
  • Provides legal advice to the Commissioners Court and to other elected officials.
  • Brings civil enforcement actions on behalf of the state or county.
  • Represents victims of family violence in protective order proceedings.
  • Represents Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in child abuse and neglect cases.
  • Represents the state in applications and petitions for mental health commitments.

District Attorney icon
District Attorney
  • Represents the state in prosecuting felony criminal cases.
  • Works with law enforcement officers in the investigation of criminal cases.
  • Presents cases to the grand jury.
  • Represents victims of violence in protective orders and represents the state in removing children from abusive households.

Some counties just have either a Criminal District Attorney or a combination County and District Attorney. In these counties, one office performs the functions of both the County Attorney and the District Attorney.

Auditor icon
  • Appointed by the district judge(s).
  • Prepares and administers accounting records for all county funds.
  • Audits the records and accounts of the various county departments.
  • Verifies the validity and legality of all county disbursements.
  • Forecasts financial data for budgetary formulation purposes.
  • Serves as budget officer in counties with more than 225,000 residents. (Counties with more than 125,000 residents may opt for an appointed budget officer.)


Get Specific Information about Your County

Find your county’s website for more details about your county and county officials OR contact your County Judge’s Office.