Many county seats in the United States feature a historic courthouse, such as this one in Renville County, Minnesota
, pictured in May 2008.
A county seat is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish. The term is primarily used in the United States. In the United Kingdom and Ireland county towns have a similar function.
Counties in the United States function similarly to those in the United Kingdom and Canada, acting as administrative subdivisions of a state. They have no sovereign jurisdiction of their own, although some have authority to enact and enforce municipal ordinances. Counties administer state or provincial law at the local level as part of the decentralization of state/provincial authority. In many U.S. states, state government is further decentralized by dividing counties into civil townships, to provide local government services to residents of the county who do not live in incorporated cities or towns.
A county seat is usually, but not always, an incorporated municipality. The exceptions include, but are not limited to, the county seats of counties that have no incorporated municipalities within their borders, such as Arlington County, Virginia and Howard County, Maryland. (Ellicott City, the county seat of Howard County, is the largest unincorporated county seat in the United States, followed by Towson, the county seat of Baltimore County, Maryland.) The county courthouse and county administration are usually located in the county seat, but some functions may also be conducted in other parts of the county, especially if it is geographically large.
U.S. counties with more than one county seat 
Most counties have only one county seat. However, some counties in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Vermont have two or more county seats, usually located on opposite sides of the county. An example is Harrison County, Mississippi, which lists both Biloxi and Gulfport as county seats. The practice of multiple county seat towns dates from the days when travel was difficult. There have been few efforts to eliminate the two-seat arrangement, since a county seat is a source of pride (and jobs) for the towns involved.
There are 34 counties with multiple county seats (no more than two each) in 9 states:
- Coffee County, Alabama
- St. Clair County, Alabama
- Arkansas County, Arkansas
- Carroll County, Arkansas
- Clay County, Arkansas
- Craighead County, Arkansas
- Franklin County, Arkansas
- Logan County, Arkansas
- Mississippi County, Arkansas
- Prairie County, Arkansas
- Sebastian County, Arkansas
- Yell County, Arkansas
- Lee County, Iowa
- Campbell County, Kentucky
- Kenton County, Kentucky
- Essex County, Massachusetts
- Middlesex County, Massachusetts
- Plymouth County, Massachusetts
- Bolivar County, Mississippi
- Carroll County, Mississippi
- Chickasaw County, Mississippi
- Harrison County, Mississippi
- Hinds County, Mississippi
- Jasper County, Mississippi
- Jones County, Mississippi
- Panola County, Mississippi
- Tallahatchie County, Mississippi
- Yalobusha County, Mississippi
- Jackson County, Missouri
- Hillsborough County, New Hampshire
- Bennington County, Vermont
Other variations 
In New England, the town, not the county, is the primary division of local government. Historically, counties in this region have served mainly as dividing lines for the states' judicial systems. Connecticut (since 1960) and Rhode Island have no county level of government and thus no county seats. In Vermont, the county seats are called shire towns. County government consists only of a Superior Court and Sheriff (as an officer of the court), both located in the respective shire town. Bennington County has two shire towns (Manchester for the North Shire, Bennington for the South Shire), but both the Court and the Sheriff are in Bennington. In Massachusetts, most government functions which would otherwise be performed by county governments in other states are performed by town governments (there are no unincorporated areas in the state, that is, all land area in the state is within a town). As such, Massachusetts has dissolved many of its county governments, and the state government now operates the registries of deeds and sheriff's offices in those former counties.
In Virginia, a county seat may be an independent city surrounded by, but not part of, the county of which it is the administrative center; for example, Fairfax City is both the county seat of Fairfax County and is completely surrounded by Fairfax County, but the city is politically independent of the county.
Two counties in South Dakota (Shannon and Todd) have their county seat and government services centered in a neighboring county. Their county-level services are provided by Fall River County and Tripp County, respectively.
In Louisiana, which is divided into parishes rather than counties, county seats are referred to as parish seats or parish capitals.
In the Canadian province of New Brunswick, the term "shire town" is used in place of county seat.
Lists of U.S. county seats by state 
The state with the greatest number of counties is Texas, with 254, and the state with the least number of counties is Delaware, with 3.
See also 
External links 
Renewable Energy in the West County Seat Season 3, Episode 19
We have a MECCA of renewable energy within a 50 mile radius. Talk about an education gold mine; and a development gold mine. We have the capabilities and the...
The County Seat's Malia Bascom takes a look at what Indigent Defense is, how it impacts counties on a daily basis, and some potential things that might chang...
Relocating the Draper Prison, The County Seat Season 2, Episode 40 seg 1
20 of Utah's counties provide jail contracting of state inmates. Jail contracting is an agreement the the counties make with the department of corrections to...
RS2477 County Rights of Way, County Seat Season3, Episode 13
Kane County and the Federal Government have had a dispute over the ownership of a number of roads that traverse federal lands which the county has argued bel...
The County Seat - Part 1 (Pilot Episode)
This is part 1 of 4. "The County Seat" is a Public-Affairs program for counties to educate their constituents about the issues that affect them. Terry Wood e...
Greater Sage-Grouse Planning in UTAH County Seat Season3, Episode 18
"These birds have learned to come to a particular area like the old gymnasium for the sock hop and they've learned to display and show their aggression and d...
Relocating the Utah State Prison and its affect on Jails County Seat Season3, Episode 9
The Counties are heavily invested in this partnership but what will happen to jail contracting if the state builds a new prison that can house all of the sta...
County Seat Season 2, Episode 47 Update Show Prairie Dogs
Changes in the 4D rule in Iron County have allowed the Pargonah Cemetery and the Parowan Airport to control prairie dogs within their boundaries by force if ...
One on one with Utah Director of the BLM Juan Palma; County Seat Season 3, Episode 4
Juan Palma is the Director of the Bureau of Land Management in Utah. The BLM manages 22.9 million acres of land within Utah, about 42% of the state. With so ...
County Seat Episode 42 State Parks Budget Cuts
Last year the state legislature made drastic cuts to the State Parks budget. As a result they are now looking at possibly having to close or transfer ownersh...
Wed, 15 May 2013 09:56:00 -0700
Sedgwick County deputies issue more than 100 tickets during a four-hour seat belt enforcement patrol last night. Deputies conducted the patrol Tuesday between 6:00 and 10:00 pm. In that time, 83 adults were cited for seat belt violations, one of them ...
Mon, 13 May 2013 11:36:17 -0700
... Montgomery County seat belt initiative yields nearly 140 citations. Police in Montgomery County issued nearly 140 traffic citations Friday night during a campaign to enforce the nighttime use of seat belts. From about 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on ...
The News Herald
Sat, 11 May 2013 16:23:29 -0700
Once this issue was settled, the next question became the location for the new county seat. Those desirous of a new county expected the selection of the seat of government to be a clear choice at Panama City. They were surprised when a dozen or more ...
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Sat, 11 May 2013 09:12:29 -0700
Barb Rice to run for county seat. Burpoe to step down, endorse Rice. May 11, 2013. By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer (firstname.lastname@example.org) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Save |. SARANAC LAKE - Franklin County Legislator Tim Burpoe, ...
Benton Evening News
Thu, 09 May 2013 16:59:09 -0700
Carmen and Ken Burzynski had a vision to improve the Benton public square when they opened County Seat Antique Mall at 303 Public Square almost 10 years ago. In an effort to attract attention to the downtown area, the couple hosted a photographical ...
Sat, 04 May 2013 23:11:08 -0700
OAKLAND — It is not an unusual story. An athlete shows great skills and talent at a young age, but doesn't realize how hard work could make him or her better. Then senior year hits and with maturity, the talent and work ethic come together. At last, a ...
Thu, 02 May 2013 16:38:21 -0700
Linda Meyer-Adams said she will miss the people the most now that she has retired as the director of the County Seat Senior Center. She served as the director for seven years and has been with the Mid East Area Agency on Aging (MEAAA) for eight years.
Fri, 26 Apr 2013 10:31:41 -0700
The 2014 general election is still more than a year and a half away, but a pair of early qualifiers to run has already set up a potentially intriguing County Commission race. Cheryl Grieb, the two-term Kissimmee city commissioner and current mayor pro ...
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