Get to Know Local Government | AIChE

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Get to Know Local Government

December
2019

You might find yourself either employed by a local government or working on a project that requires you to interface with officials and the community. Know the types of local governments, funding mechanisms, and methods to best interact with the public before diving into unfamiliar waters.

Governments in the U.S. are set up in a tiered system, which consists of the federal government at the highest level, followed by state government and local government. The U.S. Constitution does not define local government entities; rather, each state designs its own system of local governance, which might include counties, municipalities, and/or special districts. In the 2012 Census of Governments, the U.S. Census Bureau identified a total of 89,004 local governments that fall into five categories:

  • 19,522 municipal governments
  • 16,364 town or township governments
  • 3,031 county governments
  • 12,884 school districts
  • 37,203 special district governments.

As an engineer, you may end up working on a project for a local government or one that requires the input and approval of a local government, as these entities often provide the services we use most. Local governments typically control land permitting and use decisions, so you should understand your local government’s structure if you work at a facility that is or will be constructed within its jurisdiction. If you do not understand how a government is structured or funded, as well has how best to interact with it, you are at a disadvantage, which can reflect poorly on your firm and negatively impact the project...

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