Counties in Wisconsin

The importance which our state Constitution assigns to local control means that many governmental functions are the responsibility of local units rather than state agencies. Social services, emergency services including fire and medical response, land use regulation, and criminal justice are essential functions at the local level – and lean heavily on local budgets. Areas of the state not incorporated as municipalities (i.e., towns) rely on the county to help meet many of these demands. Areas which are included in municipalities (i.e., cities and villages) must cooperate with the county with regard to some of these functions.

An excellent introduction to the role of counties in Wisconsin, Wisconsin County Government: History, Services and Funding , as well as the Wisconsin County Official’s Handbook can be found on the website of the Wisconsin Counties Association.

The Local Government Center web site contains the following information about county government.

Fact Sheets and more


Strengthening County Government: Three Cs for Effectiveness – (PDF file, 854 kb, 5 pages). Local Government Center’s role in supporting county board officials.

Other Web Sites

Wisconsin Counties Association
Wisconsin City/County Management Association
Wisconsin County Governments – web sites of Wisconsin counties, where one exists
UW-Division of Extension–County and Area Offices

County Officials Workshops – Spring 2018

County government finds itself under increasing public pressure to “get it right.” With turnover on county boards averaging about 25% each election cycle, board members need opportunities to learn more about their roles and responsibilities.

In even-numbered years, following the spring elections, County Officials Workshops are offered at locations around the state.

Experts from UW-Extension’s Local Government Center and the Wisconsin Counties Association provide the information needed to become a more effective supervisor, and the opportunity to meet supervisors from other counties to learn how they operate and make decisions. View the 2018 County Officials Workshops brochure.

Extension and Counties

University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension represents a federal-state-county partnership involving land grant universities (such as the University of Wisconsin) that brings information and education directly to citizens on topics affecting their lives and livelihood. County Extension offices cooperate with the Local Government Center in making our resources available to you, and also providing a connection to the many other programming areas within Extension. We rely on the support and guidance of the Wisconsin Counties Association in developing many of these programs. In addition to distance education programs, we offer statewide workshops in even-numbered years, after the spring election, to orient and update county officials.