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Municipal Offices

compiled by J. Beltran Summer 2008

Note: Items in parentheses refer to Sources listed on last page.

Municipalities: The Latin root of municipal relates to town or citizen. A municipality, therefore, is a city or incorporated village. In North Dakota, a community that legislative law allows to govern itself is a municipality regardless of population (American Heritage College Dictionary; Omdahl and Wright; Leifur).

History: Municipalities are not mentioned in the 1861 Organic Act. Incorporation was a complicated process in Dakota Territory that involved several applications to the Territorial Legislature, county commissioners, register of deeds, and several state officials. After 1887 the Territorial Legislature was no longer involved, and this continued under the 1889 Constitution when North Dakota became a state (ND Centennial Blue Book; ND Blue Book 1907). The legislature made several changes in forms of municipal government after 1889 from which cities could choose. All cities are incorporated to provide particular services for their citizens and to carry out some state services (ND Centennial Blue Book; Omdahl). When any municipality is dissolved, the county auditor publicizes it and sends a copy of the notice to the secretary of state (NDCC 40-53.1-06).

Mayor-Council Form

History: The first type of city government established in North Dakota and still the most popular is the mayor-council form. Originally, in addition to the mayor and council, the other officers were auditor who was also the city clerk, assessor, city attorney, city engineer, and heads of various departments, e.g., police and fire. (Leifur) Only the mayor and members of the council are elected (NDCC 40-14-01). The mayor appoints, with the council’s approval, the other officers. Currently they are auditor, treasurer, assessor, city attorney, city engineer, and department heads (NDCC 40-14-04).

Mayor-Council City Officer Title: Mayor

History, Creation, & Operation: The mayor, an elected officer, is a member of the council and its chairperson.

Official Duties: Presides at council meetings. Although the mayor has no vote except to break a tie, he/she has veto power; selects, with council’s approval, and removes appointed city officials; signs ordinances, and has line item veto of appropriations ordinances (NDCC, 40-04.1;Omdahl, 1993).

Mayor-Council City Officer Title: Council Members

History, Creation, & Operation: Legislative law established and voters elect members of the city council. If a city decides to change its form of government, some titles and/or duties may change.

Official Duties: Enact city ordinances; advise mayor and approve of choices for appointed city officials; council’s powers are subject to state law.

Commission City Government

History, Creation and Operation: 1907 legislature created city commission form of government. The process to adopt it included a vote by city’s residents to approve it (North Dakota Centennial Blue Book). If the commission city government succeeds a mayor-council form, the president of the commission and the commission inherits the duties of the mayor and council (NDCC 40-09-05).

Commission City Officer Title: President of the Board

History, Creation, & Operation: The office was established by legislative law.

Official Duties: Executive officer of the city; chairman of the commission with voting power but no veto (NDCC 40-09-08); keeps minutes of activities (Lotte).

City Manager Type

City Manager Officer Title: City Manager

History, Creation and Operation: This type of city government was established by the legislature in 1919 to operate with either a mayor-council or commission government. The process to adopt it includes a vote by the city’s residents. The city manager reports to the council or the commission (Omdahl).

Official Duties: Chief administrative officer; prepares city’s preliminary budget; administers final budget; appoints and removes administrative department heads and city employees subject to any civil service regulations.

For any municipality: Municipal Court Clerk
History, Creation, Operation: The governing body (council or commission), with the consent of the municipal judge, appoints the court clerk.
Official Duties: administers court office; supervises other office personnel (NDCC 40-18-06.1)


Village, Governing Body, and Other Offices

Creation, History, and Operation: Village was another early form of municipal government created by the legislature. They could be corporate or unicorporated. However, in 1967 the legislature required all incorporated villages to adopt city government. (Leifur; Repealed by S.L. 1967, ch. 323, §285.)

Officers: Titles and Official Duties:
President of board of trustees: is chairperson of the board
Clerk: keeps all village records
Treasurer: collects and disburses village money
Assessor: determines property values for taxation
Marshal: village police officer
Justice of the peace: tries offenders of village ordinances (ND Blue Book, 1911; Leifur).
City justice of the peace - Jurisdiction and procedure (40-18-02). Repealed by S.L. 1959, ch. 268, §34.


American Heritage College Dictionary, 4th ed., 2004.

Leifur, Conrad W., Our State North Dakota. New York: American Book Company, 1958.

North Dakota Association of Counties (www.ndaco.org)

North Dakota Centennial Blue Book 1889-1989

North Dakota Century Code

North Dakota Blue Book 1907 contains 1861 Organic Act, D.T. §9 and 1889 North Dakota Constitution

North Dakota Blue Book 2001-20003 contains 1999 legislature’s changes for clerk of court

North Dakota Century Code (www.legis.nd.gov/information/statutes/cent-code.html)

North Dakota League of Cities (www.ndlc.org)

North Dakota Township Officers Association (www.ndtoa.com)

Omdahl, Lloyd B., 1987-89 Governing North Dakota and The Constitution of North Dakota. Grand Forks, ND: Bureau of Governmental Affairs University of North Dakota, 1987.

Omdahl, Lloyd B., 1993-95 Governing North Dakota and The Constitution of North Dakota. Grand Forks, ND: Bureau of Governmental Affairs University of North Dakota, 1993.

Omdahl, Lloyd B. & Boyd L. Wright, 1975-1977 Governing North Dakota. Grand Forks, ND: Bureau of Governmental Affairs University of North Dakota, 1975.

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