Palm Beach County is the largest of Florida’s 67 counties. There are 38 municipalities within the County encompassing a total of 328 square miles, or approximately 16% of the County’s area. The State Legislature established Palm Beach County as Florida's 47th County on July 1, 1909. Prior to that time, the area was part of Dade County.

On Nov. 6, 1984, Palm Beach County voters approved a home rule charter form of government. The charter, in essence, is the document that spells out how the county government will operate. Among other things, it establishes “home rule,” a County Manager form of government, provides a process to amend or modify the charter itself, and gives voters the power to remove county commissioners from office, known as recall.

The charter enables Palm Beach County voters, through their elected officials, to have greater independence in determining how their local government will function and what services it provides. Since taking effect in January 1985, the charter has had several voter-approved additions (amendments), but not a thorough, grass-roots level review.

The Board of County Commissioners (BCC), which is the legislative branch of County government, adopts ordinances and resolutions to establish programs that protect and maintain the health, safety, and welfare of County residents. In 1990, the BCC changed from five at-large Commissioners to seven, each representing a single-member district. Each Commissioner is elected to a four-year term by voters in the district in which they reside. Commissioners elect a Mayor to preside over meetings and serve as the ceremonial head of the County. A Vice Mayor is also selected to assume these duties in the absence of the Mayor.

Major areas of public interest under the control of the Board include:

  • construction and maintenance of County buildings, roads, and bridges;
  • provision of fire protection and disaster relief services;
  • provision of programs of housing, community development, slum clearance, conservation, flood and adoption and enforcement of building and housing codes and regulations;
  • preservation of natural resources;
  • preparation, review, and periodic amendment of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the development of the unincorporated portion of the County;
  • provision of cultural and recreational facilities and programs. beach erosion control, and air pollution control;

The Commission appoints the Chief Executive Officer, i.e., the County Administrator, who implements BCC approved programs and manages the day-to-day operations of County government. With BCC approval, the County Administrator appoints Assistant County Administrators and Department Directors.