Localities have the enormous responsibility of providing basic services to citizens. They are often the first and last connection between citizens and government. Although localities are universally dependent upon states for policymaking power, a norm formalized by Dillon’s Rule, there is still widespread variation in government structure. Differences in governmental organization at the county and municipal level create differences in approaches to public policy.
Local governments provide a unique opportunity for organizational experimentation in governing procedures. Government structure at the municipal level tends to be distinguished by the separation of executive and legislative functions (mayor–council) and the separation of political and administrative functions (council–manager). An increasing number of localities also have created special districts to further enhance political and policymaking authority. The comparative approach outlined at the beginning of this text provides a useful tool for examining these variations in structure and the resulting variations in local public policy.