Counties were originally organized to be administrative agencies of the state. In addition to serving as an administrative arm of the state, counties provide services to citizens beyond the original scope of county government.


In the past, counties performed state mandated duties which included assessment of property, record keeping (i.e. property and vital statistics), maintenance of rural roads, administration of election and judicial functions, maintaining peace in rural areas, and poor relief. Today, counties have expanded into other areas of government support, including social services, corrections, child protection, library services, hospitals and rest homes, public health services, land use planning and zoning, economic development, parks and recreation, water planning, and solid waste management.


Counties may:

  • Sue and be sued.
  • Acquire and hold real and personal property for the use of the county, and lands sold for taxes as provided by law.
  • Purchase and hold for the benefit of the county real estate sold by virtue of judicial proceedings, to which the county is a party.
  • Sell, lease, and convey real or personal estate owned by the county, and give contracts or options to sell, lease, or convey it, and make orders respecting it as deemed conducive to the interests of the county's inhabitants.
  • Make all contracts and do all other acts in relation to the property and concerns of the county necessary to the exercise of its corporate powers.

Organizational Structure

Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 375A allows for a variety of options for the type of county government, including:

  • Elected Executive Plan
  • County Manager Plan
  • At-Large Chair Plan
  • County Administrator Plan
  • County Auditor-Administrator Plan

The statute also allows for the following organizational options for certain county offices:

  • appointment of county auditor, treasurer, sheriff or recorder by county-wide referendum.
  • office of county civil counsel by county board action.
  • the consolidation of the county auditor and county treasurer by county board action or county-wide referendum.

The statute also allows for the establishment of a county government study commission by county board action or county voter petition.