In any community, the local government plays a major role in the quality of life, and offers a variety of services from infrastructure development to garbage collection. Yet, for many, it's not entirely clear exactly what a local government does.
In this guide, we’ll provide a thorough list of local government departments, explain what they do, and highlight the recent technological breakthroughs that have transformed how each functions.
Read on to truly grasp the functions of a local government.
What Are the Typical County & Municipal Government Departments?
At a glance, here are the typical departments in a local government:
- Clerk’s Department
- Department of Public works
- Economic Development
- Municipal & County Court
- Health Department
- IT Department
- Engineering and Building & Construction Department
- Planning & Zoning
- Human Resources
- Code Enforcement
- Emergency Management
- Parks & Recreation
- Police Department
- Fire Department
- Public Schools
What Are the Responsibilities of Each Local Government Department?
Learn more about the functions of each local government agency, the impact they have on their constituents and community, and how they’ve innovated with technology in recent years:
1. Clerk’s Department
The clerk’s department is in charge of processing and filing paperwork, assisting constituents in filling out applications, and managing the agenda for / recording public meetings. Whenever a government official is in need of relevant paperwork or a constituent makes an open record request, the county or municipal clerk is in charge of getting the relevant documents into their hands.
How is modern technology used in the clerk’s department?
With clerk’s department software, the bulk of mindless administrative tasks can be automated, including:
- Submission of relevant applications for licenses, permits, and document requests: Constituents used to have to go to the clerk’s office in-person during office hours to file paperwork. Now, they can do it 24/7 straight from their phone or laptop with straightforward online applications. That saves clerk’s office officials man hours every month that were previously used to assist constituents with filing.
- Digital storage & filing of public data & documents: with applications and related paperwork submitted online, clerk’s office employees no longer need to file paperwork by hand. Once an application is submitted, it will be automatically stored in the cloud and submitted to the relevant government officials.
- Tracking down paperwork: with paper filing, clerk’s officials had to go through hoards of documents and files to track down pertinent pieces of paperwork. With technology like GovPilot, a simple search function makes it easy for administrative officials and government workers to track down a relevant piece of paperwork with a few clicks.
2. Department of Public Works (DPW)
The public works department is in charge of managing and maintaining local public spaces, infrastructure, government assets, and so on. When issues like a broken water line, down electrical wire, or a problem with a public building arise, it falls on the public works employees to address and fix the issue. Assets like government vehicles in need of repair fall on the public works department as well. Additionally, the public works department handles tasks like trash and recycling collection.
How is modern technology used in the public works department?
Public works officials always have a lot on their plate. Whether it’s managing assets, addressing work orders, or filling out paperwork regarding progress, there are constant things to do.
Here are the ways public works software can help:
- Mobile paperwork filing: it doesn’t make sense for a public works employee to drive to fix an issue just to drive back to the office to fill out the relevant paperwork. With a simple mobile application for managing public works documentation, public works officials can file paperwork in real-time at the scene from a government field device.
- Online work order requests: when a new task arises for public works to cover, the relevant government employee will receive a notification. The task will be time stamped in the cloud to increase accountability and ensure no public works projects slip through the cracks.
- Records accessible from the GIS map: public works officials can see a history of work that’s been completed at a previous location from a 3D GIS map of their community.
Here are considerations for a Modern Department of Public Works Strategy
3. Economic Development Department
Municipal and county governments can and should play an integral role in local economic development. The local economic development department is in charge of encouraging commercial and residential construction, business registration and retention, creating job opportunities, encouraging tourism, and increasing population growth.
How is modern technology used in the economic development department?
Economic development software uses simple online workflows to encourage businesses to invest in the community. With online business registration, digital applications are available for various permits and licenses needed to operate businesses. Simple online communications platforms for streamlined correspondence between private businesses and relevant government officials are also available, enticing entrepreneurs and corporations alike to choose your tech-savvy locality to operate in.
In general, broadband infrastructure wields the power to transform the local economy, as high-speed Internet is integral to modern business operations. Learn more in the guide to Investing in Broadband Infrastructure as a Local Government.
4. Municipal and County Courts
Local courts handle management of minor offenses, enforcement of local ordinances, and other violations that occur within the county or municipality at hand. Additionally, courthouse officials handle the management of document requests as outlined by open records policies at the federal and state levels.
How is modern technology used in the local courthouse?
Judicial software can help local courts in the following ways:
- Court document requests can be made online. Once a constituent makes a request, it can be virtually submitted.
- Appeal requests can be submitted from your government website.
- Virtual court hearings can save time and allow constituents to call in from home rather than driving to the courthouse
- Alleged offenders can plead guilty or not guilty online, reducing the number of cases that need to occur in court.
What Should You Look for in Court Software? Read on to find out.
5. Health Department
The health department is in charge of ensuring that local businesses are following federal, state, and local regulations as it pertains to health standards. During a public health emergency, like COVID-19, they play a direct role in local education on the issues, enforcement of precautionary measures, and accessibility to vaccines and medications.
Learn more about what health department leadership is dealing with on the day-to-day with these Tips for Public Health Directors.
How is modern technology used in the local health department?
Health department technology allows health officials to complete inspections with a simplified mobile app that can be customized for various business types. Health inspections of local businesses are completed more quickly, and the paperwork is automatically stored and accessible from the cloud. Health licenses can be digitally executed when a business passes inspection. Existing records for a particular establishment can be pulled up via your local GIS map.
Here are more helpful resources about the local health department:
- Public Health Data Management Considerations
- Coordinating Health Testing at the Local Level
- Promoting Sustainability in Public Healthcare
6. IT Department
For all of the other local government departments to function at full capacity, an IT department is needed to modernize and maintain government computer systems. The department generally repairs technological issues, implements cybersecurity measures, and makes considerations towards embracing modern technological enhancements.
How is modern technology used in the local IT department?
Without ticketing software, IT officials waste time and let projects slip through the cracks when organizing to-dos themselves. Government IT software automatically processes IT support requests and assigns them to the relevant government officials, streamlining task management and ensuring all projects are completed in a timely fashion.
Learn more about how to form a Modern Local Government IT Strategy in an increasingly digital world.
7. Engineering & Construction Department
When it comes to building new infrastructure and making modifications to existing infrastructure, the engineering and construction department handles the approval of designs, bidding process for private contractors, and the handling of paperwork related to construction.
How is modern technology used in the construction department?
Engineering department software and government construction software can expedite the entire process of new construction or infrastructure maintenance. Permits are filed for practically every aspect of the construction process. Online permit filing systems will save hours on end and expedite the process of local construction.
For construction of public infrastructure, the construction department can notify relevant local private-sector businesses with RFPs and accept bids straight from your government website. Private-sector partners will be held accountable to deadlines and budgets with intuitive and customized construction dashboards.
8. Planning & Zoning Department
The local planning and zoning department is in charge of dictating which types of infrastructure are allowed within the boundaries of various zones within your community. They set regulations and approve or deny construction projects based on the policies within a particular region of the community, and can change these policies as needed by making amendments.
How can planning and zoning department technology help?
- GIS mapping software makes it easy to look up records about particular regions and properties in your neighborhood.
- Zoning permits can be submitted to and approved from your government website.
- Inspections can be automatically assigned and recorded from a mobile inspection app.
9. Human Resources
The local government human resources department is in charge of posting job listings, hiring and training employees, and managing challenges that arise within the workplace culture. They’re typically involved in the distribution of government employee benefits.
How is technology used for human resources in local government?
Modern government technology allows for job postings and application management directly from your government website. Applicants will be more inclined to apply for a job that accepts online applications. HR representatives’ lives will be much easier with online workflows and automatic organization of applications via government human resources software.
Local governments also regularly use government software for employee injury reporting.
10. Code Enforcement Department
When it comes to enforcing local ordinances and policies, code enforcement is on the job. Ticketing for things like parking violations, barking dogs, as well as community-specific policies are typically handled by code enforcement officials.
How is modern technology used for the code enforcement department?
Modern inspection apps make it easy when it comes to government fee processing workflows. Code enforcement officials can issue fines in-person for ordinance violations right from their phone. Ensure that local ordinances are taken seriously while generating government revenue from fees to reallocate in your budget.
11. Emergency Management Department
The emergency management department is growing increasingly important as natural disasters grow more problematic, an increased number of school shootings are occurring, and obvious public health concerns linger from the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’re in charge of everything from recruiting community emergency response team (CERT) volunteers to offering local information and training sessions pertaining to various risks, to helping in making decisions around mitigation techniques and local disaster resilient infrastructure.
How does modern emergency management technology help?
Here are just some of the plentiful benefits of using emergency management software:
- Recruit CERT volunteers with postings on your government website
- Track financials and timelines around infrastructure projects from an intuitive dashboard
- Reach out to FEMA in a crisis situation and send FEMA expense reports and financial documents throughout the recovery process with online government communications channels.
12. Parks & Recreation Department
The parks & recreation department manages and maintains local public spaces and handles the approval process for events that take place on these lands.
How does technology help in the parks and recreation department?
There are constant events taking place in your local public spaces. Applications related to using public space from sports practices to BBQs can be filed and registration fees can be paid for from your government website using parks and recreation department software.
When it comes to assigning tasks to maintenance employees in public spaces, government ticketing software can automatically assign maintenance tasks and ensure government workers are held accountable.
13. Police Department
Local police officers enforce federal, state, and local laws, patrol the community to ensure neighborhood safety, and respond to emergency situations. When they’re not behind the wheel of the police car, they’re often filing paperwork related to the events that unfolded while they were on patrol.
How does technology help in the local police department?
With such a substantial amount of a police officer’s job coming down to filing paperwork, local law enforcement software stores police data in a cyber secure cloud, automatically filing it and making it accessible to relevant police, courthouse staff, and other relevant government officials in just a few clicks.
Documents can be filed by officers online rather than by hand.
Consider the Best Law Enforcement Technology to look for at the local level
14. Fire Department
Outside of responding in a crisis situation involving fire, the local fire department is in charge of implementing fire mitigation techniques, public education on fire safety, medical care in emergency situations, and responding to disasters.
Fire prevention software can help with asset management, fire permitting, vehicle maintenance and reporting of fires for a quicker response time.
15. Public Schools
The local public school system manages K-12 education of students within your jurisdiction. Beyond teachers assisting in various age groups and subjects, administrative officials manage the filing of paperwork and answering of the phones and the Board of Education makes decisions around budgets and policies.
All of the Local Government Departments
When it comes to the average American’s daily life, their local government agencies have the most direct impact on their quality of life. From trash collection to maintenance of local parks to filing of various permits and licenses, local community-members and businesses rely on the local government to keep things functional and make local progress happen.
To learn about how GovPilot government software can allow for digital transformation across municipal and county departments, book a free demo.
Local Government Departments FAQs
What Do Local Governments Do?
Local governments are in charge of managing local infrastructure (including roads, bridges, parks, etc.) municipal courts, police and fire departments, public transit, public works, as well as accepting applications and filing paperwork pertaining to all of these various departments.
How Can Local Governments Innovate?
Many local government departments could get more done in less time by switching to government technology. Local government software is designed to automate mindless tasks and file paperwork in the cloud with technology known as robotic process automation, making it easy to save time and money across every local government department.
Learn more in our guide, 6 Keys for Modern Local Government Innovation.
- Local Government Accountability: Operating a Truly Ethical Local Government
- Modern Government Trends, Events, & Technology
- Tornado Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Wildfire Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Local Government Disaster Preparedness Guide
- Continuity of Government: Government Procedures During a Crisis
- Government Cybersecurity: How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
- Local Government Automation: Benefits of Going Digital
- Government Blockchain: How Local Government Can Use Crypto
- How Local Governments Can Encourage Civic Engagement
- How Do Online Permitting Systems Work?
- What is GovTech? Everything to Know About Government Technology
- Best Software for Government Procurement
- Building Inspections 101: How Municipalities Can Improve Public Safety
- Municipal Planning: Reclaiming Your City Streets