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Barnstable County Regional Government


Much of the information on this page is excerpted from “How Barnstable County is Governed,” from the Educational Trust for the League of Women Voters of Lower Cape Cod, Orleans, 1991. Barnstable County thanks the League for its assistance.

Barnstable County is one of the three original counties created in Plymouth Colony and was established in 1685. Barnstable County is nearly coextensive with the peninsula known as Cape Cod, and provides services to the 15 towns within its borders. As of July 1, 2016, the current population was 214, 276. (

What Makes Barnstable County Unique

At a time when county governments were beginning to go by the wayside in Massachusetts, the Barnstable County Home Rule Charter of 1988 uniquely provided certain rights of home rule, as well as opportunities for increased citizen participation in county government. It created a county legislative body, the Assembly of Delegates, with the power to enact ordinances.

By the late 1990’s, most county-level government was eliminated in Massachusetts.  Today, only the southeastern third of the state has functioning county governments, Barnstable being one of them.

What Barnstable County Provides

Barnstable County exists to serve the 15 towns, and therefore the 200,000 + residents of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  The numerous services that the County provides to the towns and residents are listed here.

The Home Rule Charter states:

Read Our Home Rule Charter in its entirety.

The second major change – the Cape Cod Commission Act of 1990 – created a regional planning agency with regulatory power.Please see The Cape Cod Commission.

Barnstable County’s organizational chart below. Download it here: Barnstable County Organizational Chart_revised 1_14_2019 (38 downloads)