Our local, state, and federal governments provide separate but interrelated roles and services. Although we hear much about our federal government, all levels are important. Local governments, especially, often have the greatest impact on our lives. To learn how you can influence your municipal and county governments, check out the Participate page.

To connect with any Dare County representative—local, state, or congressional—see Elected Representatives.

Municipal Government

Across the state, and particularly in Dare County, city and town governments are where the action is. From beach nourishment to recycling programs, they have taken the lead in addressing issues being ignored by county, state, and federal governments.

In North Carolina, the state legislature creates or incorporates towns. Policy is set by an elected board, and town operations are run by a CEO-like manager.

Dare County has six towns, or municipalities. Each provides fundamental services to its community: police, fire, solid-waste management, zoning, building inspection, municipal water, and wastewater treatment. Each town also provides different levels of service and tax rates, based on citizens’ preferences.

Municipal elections are nonpartisan, and ballots do not show candidates’ party affiliations.

County Government


Dare County is governed by a seven-member Board of Commissioners, with operations run by a county manager. In North Carolina, county governments implement state-level programs, particularly in health and human services—e.g., programs like Medicare, SNAP (food stamps), and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Additionally, the county enforces state rules on water quality, food safety, and other areas. The county government also provides municipal services—e.g., solid-waste management, public safety, and planning and zoning—to the unincorporated portions of the county.

Education in North Carolina and Dare County

Public education in North Carolina is controlled by the state, with localities providing additional control and funding. State government sets a minimum service level per pupil and funds a base pay rate for enough teachers to provide the minimum service standard. Local boards of education, working with county boards of commissioners, provide the extra funding for additional teaching staff and teacher supplements. School construction and maintenance is largely a local responsibility, with some support from state funds.

State government—

  • Establishes curriculum requirements and standards
  • Sets and funds teachers’ base salaries
  • Sets maximum class size for some grades
  • Sets system-wide testing and grading standards.

Local boards of education—

  • Work with county boards of education to establish county-wide budgets
  • Set teacher pay supplements
  • Fund additional teaching positions
  • Build and maintain school physical plants
  • Hire the system superintendent to be CEO of the county school system.

North Carolina Government

The North Carolina Constitution stipulates three branches of state government—executive, legislative, and judicial—as well as the roles and responsibilities of each. The organizational chart provided here summarizes the branches’ interrelationships.

The executive branch is headed by the governor, who runs the state and oversees department leaders. Departments include transportation, environmental quality, health and human services, and revenue. The governor is also responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws and budget adopted by the legislature. Governors are elected to four-year terms and limited to two consecutive terms.

The legislative branch, known as the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA), consists of a 120-member House of Representatives and a 50-member Senate. Together, these representatives establish the laws of the state, determine the state’s budget, and allocate funds to state functions, including education. All NCGA legislators are elected every two years. Legislators also define the boundaries for voting districts. Dare County is in Senate District 1 and House District 6.

As described in the Judicial Branch Pocket Guide, the court system comprises the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Superior Court, District Court, and magistrates. District and superior courts make up the branch’s Trial Division and serve the districts established by the state legislature. The Appellate Division consists of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court and serves the entire state.

A diagram of the three branches’ key elements can be found here. A good source for more information on North Carolina’s government services and agencies can be found on the state’s home page.