Whither MKE Cnty: Los Angeles County

Every time anyone from Wisconsin, whether from the left or right, wants to throw an orange to upset the apple cart that is Milwaukee County, they mention that Los Angeles County has only five county supervisors…but that’s as far as it goes. So, let’s see how Los Angeles County governance compares to our Milwaukee County.

Yes, Los Angeles County has only five county supervisors..it has had five county supervisors since day one when it was chartered by the California State Legislature in 1852. The five county supervisors are full time and earn almost $179,000 per year plus benefits and are term limited at three consecutive terms of four years each. Each board member is elected from a defined supervisory district, just like in Milwaukee. But unlike our Milwaukee County Board, the board of Los Angeles county holds all of the executive and legislative roles in the county plus some quasi-judicial powers as well.

Here is a brief synopsis of their authority taken from the Los Angeles County website:

The Board of Supervisors fulfills three major powers in County government: executive, legislative and quasijudicial.

In an executive capacity, the responsibilities of a county supervisor to constituents who reside in unincorporated areas are similar to those of a mayor of an incorporated city. The supervisor is required to administer all local governmental services.

In its legislative role, the Board may adopt ordinances and rules, both to control the administration of County government and to regulate public conduct within the unincorporated areas of the County.

Acting in a quasijudicial capacity, the Board acts as an appeals board on zone exception cases of the Regional Planning Commission. It sits for hearings on county improvement districts and on appeals in licensing matters

Los Angeles County has 88 municipalities plus the unincorporated areas mentioned in the quote. The county also contracts a number of civil services to many of it’s member municipalities, a chief one being a county Fire Department.

Interestingly enough, they manage to accomplish this and more WITHOUT an elected county executive…opting instead for an administrator hired by the board who reports to the board and titled Chief Executive Officer. From the same link as above:

The Board supervises the activities of the chief administrative officer and all County departments, determines County and special district policies and sets salaries of County personnel.

Each supervisor has the responsibility of selecting citizens to serve on the various County commissions and committees.

In addition to the duties specifically assigned to the Board of Supervisors by law, each Board office acts as a liaison between the public and the many branches of government.

One of the most interesting statements, to me at least, is the declaration that the county supervisor acts as a liaison between the public and the many branches of government. What? And they get to do all of this and don’t get accused of micromanaging?

There are three other elective county offices in Los Angeles, the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and the County Assessor. If you’d like to see the full Los Angeles County Org Chart, click here!

And yes, Los Angeles County is considerably more populous and larger geographically than Milwaukee County.

So, a larger county has a much smaller county board, but it is full time and is paid far more than our local supervisors. But they also have a lot more power and authority than our local board. So, if Milwaukee County went to 5 board members, would the powers that be who are out to bust our boards current authority allow them to assume roles similar to LAC as well?


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