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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.

Counties have had a part in Massachusetts government since Colonial times. Barnstable County itself was established in 1685.

Originally, counties had judicial functions, but over time responsibilities were added, such as administration of the penal system, supervision of certain health facilites, highways, agriculture, and registration of deeds. State law provided for election of officials, including county commissioners, district attorneys, sheriffs, clerks of courts, and registers of both deeds and probate. Barnstable County was similar to other Massachusetts counties: Barnstable County had no legislative authority. However in recent years, there were two major changes in the government structure.

What Makes Barnstable County Unique

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.

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.


Please see our organizational chart below.