As in Virginia, the county is the unit of government, although an unsuccessful attempt to introduce the township system was made in West Virginia’s first constitution.
Each of the state’s 55 counties have a County Commission, Raleigh County having three elected commissioners serving six years with terms so arranged that one term ends every two years, which is the legislative and fiscal authority. The county commissions were originally called county courts before legal reform stripped the commissions of their judicial powers in 1976. The county commission still retains the judicial function as the probate court.
Other officers are the County Clerk, whose primary duties are as recorder of deeds and voter’s registrar; and a Circuit Clerk, who records acts of the Family and Circuit courts, both elected for six year terms on a partisan basis; the Sheriff, who has law enforcement and tax collection authority; the Prosecuting Attorney, who must be a lawyer and who not only handles criminal cases buy also does the civil litigation for the county; an Assessor (the Constitution provides for a possibility of two, but no county has ever adopted that system), who determines the value of land for tax purposes and a surveyor of lands. All of the non-clerk jobs are elected on a partisan basis for four year terms. The sheriff is term limited to two consecutive terms. In addition, there are boards appointed or elected by various authorities and charged with specific duties. They include the local board of health and the board of jury commissioners.
There is also a Board of Education, which is elected on a non-partisan basis, consisting of five members elected with overlapping terms similar to the county commission.
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