Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) System Illinois State Archives

County Board of Supervisors/Board of County Commissioners

County boards are the corporate and fiscal bodies of their counties. From 1818 to the present, they have been elected by the citizens of the county. The Constitution of 1818 provided that three commissioners should be elected by each county, with the authority to transact all county business.1 This body was named the county commissioners' court, and the commissioners' terms were set at two years in 1821 and lengthened to three years in 1837.2 The Constitution of 1848 authorized counties to organize by township and thus abandon the county commission form of government.3 For those counties which remained organized, the county court was created, consisting of the county judge and two justices of the peace, elected for four years on a county-wide basis.4 In 1870, the county court was replaced by the board of county commissioners; the three commissioners were elected to three-year terms.5 For counties which organized by township, the General Assembly passed a law in 1849 which vested the county court's powers in the county board of supervisors. One supervisor would be elected from each township for a one-year term.6 In 1874, representation of cities and towns on county boards became proportional to their population.7 In 1969, counties could choose to elect their board on an at-large basis or according to one man, one vote districts.8 The Constitution of 1970, while continuing the previous county board laws, authorized counties to elect county chief executive officers with executive powers over the county government, including veto powers over the ordinances of the county board. As of 1983, only Cook County elects a chief executive officer.9

The primary duty of the county board has been fiscal management. As early as 1819, boards were authorized to levy property taxes and license fees. Boards were empowered to build county buildings in 1819, as well as to select names of citizens for petit jury duty, to appoint overseers of the poor in every township and supervise their work, to appoint election judges, to appoint road supervisors with responsibility for construction and maintenance.10 In 1831, boards were directed to audit the accounts of the county school commissioner, and in 1851 this authority was expanded to cover all county offices in township-organized counties.11

County boards have the authority to create new townships, to name them, and, in non-township counties, to create and change the boundaries of road districts.12 Boards may establish regional planning commissions, airports, health departments, museums, dog pounds, parks, law libraries, alcoholism clinics, senior citizen centers, and weed control departments.

Record Descriptions

1Constitution of 1818, Schedule, section 4.
2L. 1819, p. 175; L. 1821, p. 80; Rev. L. 1837, p. 103.
3Constitution of 1848, Article VII, section 6.
4Constitution of 1848, Article V, sections 17, 19; L. 1849, p. 65.
5Constitution of 1870, Article X, section 6.
6L. 1849, p. 192
7Rev. Stat. 1874, p. 1075.
8P.A. 76-1650, 1969.
9Constitution of 1970, Article VII, sections 4a, 6a; P.A. 77-1746, 1971.
10L. 1819, pp. 175, 237, 255, 127, 90, 333.
11L. 1831, p. 175; L. 1851, p. 51.
12Rev. Stat. 1979, Chapter 34, Para. 858.