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Tompkins County Government

Welcome!Dan Klein, Tompkins County Legislature

Our County Government delivers a high level of service to residents each and every day. Our County Government helps people find jobs, manages over 300 miles of county roads, responds to emergencies, keeps the community healthy, safe and vibrant, manages records and technology important to people’s lives, delivers critical programs to people in need, oversees local elections, the list goes on - and our responsibility to keeping these services running and supported has never been greater.

We have a responsive Legislature with a tradition of investing in what matters to our organization and our residents. Local government feels closer to people’s lives than ever before. Our successes and challenges have deep and lasting impacts on the lives of our constituents and neighbors. It is my sincere hope that the Tompkins County Legislature will continue to make the investments to reflect our roles in people’s lives, and continue to take our responsibility seriously.

Dan Klein, Chair, Tompkins County Legislature

County Government

County governments in New York State offer a diverse collection of services. Originally created as administrative subdivisions of State government, their responsibilities include delivery of a wide range of human services delegated to counties by the State.

County government responsibilities include:

  • Human Services
  • Public Health
  • Public Safety and Corrections
  • Roads and Maintenance
  • Public Records
  • Elections


The Role Of County Government

County government in New York State is unique in the diversity of services counties offer.

Beyond the functions common to all levels of local government—such as police protection and road maintenance—counties are responsible for a wide range of human services that are delegated to the counties by the State. In fact, counties were originally created as administrative subdivisions of State government to carry out State functions. While the role of counties has grown, many of the State’s largest and most important social programs continue to be delegated to, and delivered by counties.

Tompkins County, like New York State’s other counties, is responsible for delivering programs that assist people who are facing economic hardship, are vulnerable to abuse or exploitation, or suffer from mental illness or developmental delays. Counties are the State’s front line of defense in protecting the public’s health and play a primary role in maintaining the public’s safety. Counties operate jails, prosecute those charged with criminal offenses, provide free legal counsel for those who cannot afford their own attorney, and supervise those who are on probation. Counties also serve as the main repository for public records and manage the elections process.

In addition to these and other mandated responsibilities, Tompkins County provides police protection through a sheriff’s office, operates a countywide 911 Center, provides planning guidance, and maintains an extensive system of roads and bridges. Tompkins County is one of only two counties in the State to operate a consolidated Assessment Department.

Read more about the role of municipal governments in New York State in this Local Government Handbook


Tompkins County was founded in 1817. Since 1970, it has operated under a County Charter, with a legislature-administrator form of government.

County Legislature

  • Oversees county services and spending
  • Sets policy and determines the best use of financial resources
  • Appoints the County Administrator, County Finance Director, County Attorney, and Legislative Clerk
  • Legislators elected every four years from districts of approximately equal population size
  • Beginning in 2014, the number of legislators and districts decreased from 15 to 14, as a result of redistricting following the 2010 Census.

County Administrator

  • Oversees and coordinates county government
  • operations to carry out policies of the Legislature
  • Appoints all other non-elected department heads, subject to Legislature confirmation
  • Guides delivery of services by employees of county departments and through contracts with not-for-profit agencies and service providers

County Departments and Offices

Other County Elected Officials

Tompkins County Local Government Directory Map

Located within Tompkins County are the City of Ithaca; the Towns of Ithaca, Caroline, Danby, Dryden, Enfield, Groton, Lansing, Newfield, and Ulysses; and the Villages of Cayuga Heights, Dryden, Freeville, Groton, Lansing, and Trumansburg.

Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG) is an association of local governments organized to provide a forum for discussion and negotiation leading to agreements for more efficient and fiscally responsible delivery of government services. One of the initiatives of TCCOG is the Greater Tompkins County Municipal Health Insurance Consortium