My Local Government

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12139

Do you know who is working behind the scenes in your city or town to keep it running, keep it clean, and keep it safe? Learn about your local government so you can appreciate these dedicated people!

categories

United States

subject
Government
learning style
Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Do you live in a big city, a suburban town, or a rural village? Are the needs of each locale the same? How would this affect the type of local government they have?

In the previous Related Lesson in our Local and State Government series, found in the right-hand sidebar, you learned about the people and positions that make a state government.

To review what you have learned, write the answers to the following questions on a separate sheet of paper:

  • What are state governments modeled after?
  • What are the three branches of state government?
  • What is the purpose of each branch of state government?
  • Who is like the president of a state government?

When you are finished, review your answers with your teacher or parent. If you had difficulty answering any of these questions, you may want to go back to the previous lesson and review the information before moving forward with this lesson.

Now, you will learn about the people and positions that make up local government. You will also have an opportunity to research your local government.

To get started, read State & Local Government, on WhiteHouse.gov. When you open the page, scroll down to the section, "Local Government," that is located about halfway down the page. As you read, answer the following questions on a separate piece of paper:

  • How are local governments divided?
  • What is a municipal government?
  • How do municipalities vary by city or town?
  • What are municipalities responsible for?
  • Where does local government get its power?

When you are finished, discuss the answers to the questions with your teacher or parent.

"Municipal government" is another term for "local government." It is a government that oversees a city or town. Local governments get their power from the state government. Municipal governments can look very different in each city or town.

  • How might the local government in a city with 700,000 people look different from a local government in a town with 5,000 people?

Discuss your answer with your teacher or parent. A city with 700,000 people probably has a local government with many representatives and positions, whereas a small town with 5,000 residents may have only a few representatives.


Many cities and towns have their own version of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. For example, most local governments have a mayor. The mayor acts within the executive branch of a city or town. The mayor is usually a member of the city council and helps create laws for his or her city. Mayors are elected by the citizens.

The city council is the legislative branch of a city or town. The city council creates laws for a city or town. City council members are usually elected. The number of members a city council has often depends on the population size of a city or town. For example, the city with 700,000 people would have a much larger city council than the town with 5,000 people. Read City Council (The City of Houston) to learn more about the city council in Houston, Texas. Remember, all city councils look a little different. So, the city council in your city or town may not be exactly like this one. As you read the article, write the answers to the following questions on a separate sheet of paper:

  • How many city council members are there in Houston?
  • What role does the mayor play on the city council?
  • How are the city council members selected?
  • How long is a term on city council?

When you are finished, discuss your answers with your teacher or parent.

Municipal, district, and circuit courts make up the judicial branch of local government. These courts try cases to make sure the law is being upheld. If there is a question about the decision made by a lower court, the case is taken to the state supreme court.

There are also many other offices and positions that make up local government. For example, a school board and water commissioner are also part of local government. Draw the following chart on a separate sheet of paper:

Position How to Get this Position What this Position Does
     
     
     

 

To get an idea of all the positions that make up local government, you will look at a list of local government positions in Vermont. Remember, all local governments are different. So, your local government may not offer some of the positions listed, or it may have positions that Vermont does not. As you review the list, select three jobs you find interesting. Write about those jobs in your chart. To complete the chart, use Local Office Descriptions (Vermont Secretary of State).

Maybe you will work for your local government one day!

  • Did you see any positions you might want to have?
  • What do you need to do now so you could have that job in the future?

Share your ideas with your teacher or parent.

Then, move on to the Got It? section to research your local government.

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