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Candidate Information Resources for Local Government Elective Offices


MRSC has created this webpage especially for local government elective office candidates. It is useful for persons who are considering filing for office, those who are candidates and have filed, and those who may be considering applying for a vacancy in an elective office. There are a host of issues that will require your attention in the upcoming months as you begin your campaign and, if you are elected, as you prepare to assume the duties of your office. We hope you will find these resources to be helpful. Good luck in your campaign!

Election Campaign Guidelines and Requirements

The Secretary of State's and the Public Disclosure Commission's websites offer information on elections and voting, and various forms, compliance manuals and other resources for office candidates. Most county auditor elections division websites list Offices Open for Election, often under the heading Information for Candidates. For links to the sites, see the Secretary of State County Elections Departments in Washington State page.

Governing Tools

Some basic tools have been assembled to familiarize candidates with the resources available on the functioning of local government. First in this section is the legal framework of local government - a list of statutes and where to find local government laws. A list of guides follows which covers some of the basic concepts, such as appearance of fairness, open government, social media issues and MRSC's basic legal guide, Knowing the Territory. A number of handbooks have also been listed that are used for reference by elected officials.

Legal Framework Statutes

The links listed below are to the basic laws that govern the various forms of government. There is no single statute covering special purpose districts. A link has been provided to a list of special purpose districts and the statutory provisions that govern the districts operation.

Where to Find Local Government Regulations

Washington local government legislation is generally in the form of ordinances and resolutions. State law may specify whether an ordinance or resolution is to be used on certain local laws. Some special purpose districts only use resolutions. Many jurisdictions post ordinances and resolutions on their websites. A number of local governments have codified their local laws into code books. MRSC provides a link to those codes.

  • Washington City Codes - Codified ordinances adopted by Washington cities and town legislative bodies; not all jurisdictions have code books
  • Washington County Codes - Codified ordinances and resolutions adopted by Washington county legislative bodies

Quick Reference - Need to Know Guides

Handbooks for Elected Officials

  • Code City Handbook, MRSC Report No. 37, revised, June 2009 - Provides essential information for code city officials and incites their powers, duties, and alternatives that are available under the applicable forms of municipal government.
  • Councilmember's Handbook, MRSC Report No. 48, revised, December 2009 - A brief overview of the structure of municipal government in Washington State and the role of the councilmember in that structure. The primary focus is on the council meeting.
  • Local Government Citizen Advisory Boards - Examples, options, and model practices for the effective and efficient use of advisory boards by local governments, MRSC Report No. 63, August 2008
  • Local Government Policy-Making Process, MRSC Report No. 45, February 1999 - The purposes of this publication are to describe the local government policy-making process, outline effective roles for local officials, and to provide practical tips to make the local policy-making process for satisfying and productive
  • Mayor's Handbook, MRSC Report No. 44, February 1999 - This handbook is intended to serve as a guide for mayors in Washington cities and towns operating under the mayor-council form of government. There are also materials on issues which directly concern mayors in council-manager cities and all mayor pro tems: presiding over council meetings, conducting public hearings, etc.
  • Counties - County Commissioner Guide, November 2014 - This guidebook provides a brief introduction and overview of county government in Washington State and specifically the role of the county commissioners and county councilmembers within county government. It also covers the key legal doctrines, such as the Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act, that county officials should be familiar with.
  • Public Hospital District - Commissioner Resources, Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts
  • Cities and Towns - Small Cities Resource Manual: A guide for Washington's Small Cities and Towns, Association of Washington Cities, 2008

Roles of Elected Officials

It is essential for effective local government that municipal officials understand the roles of their respective offices and their interrelationships with others. We offer several publications and articles that discuss this important issue:


One of your primary responsibilities as an elected official will be to discuss, develop and adopt local laws and policies. Information on the drafting and adoption of ordinances and resolutions is available in our handbooks on "Local Government Policy-Making" and "Local Ordinances." Some local ordinances, however, are adopted or reviewed directly by the public; information regarding the local initiative and referendum process is available in our handbook on "Initiatives and Referendums":

  • Local Government Policy-Making Process, MRSC Report No. 45, February 1999 - The purposes of this publication are to describe the local government policy-making process, outline effective roles for local officials, and to provide practical tips to make the local policy-making process for satisfying and productive.
  • Local Ordinances for Washington Cities and Counties, MRSC Report No. 50, June 2014 - To assist Washington county, city, and town officials in the drafting and adoption of ordinances, resolutions, motions, and related devices.
  • Initiative and Referendum Powers of Cities and Towns in the State of Washington, MRSC Report No. 28, June 2014 - Reviews the powers of initiative and referendum as they are exercised in cities in the state of Washington. It includes information on how to adopt these powers and which types of municipal activities are subject to these powers.

Open Government

Openness and accountability are critical to the health of our democratic system of government. MRSC offers several resources dealing with the state open public meetings act, public records disclosure laws and strategies for connecting citizens and government:

Local Government Finance/Budgeting

Paying for government is always a challenging issue. See MRSC's city and county revenue guide and budget suggestions publications for more information on city finance issues:

  • Budgeting Basics From Councilmember's Handbook, MRSC Report No. 48, revised, December 2009
  • Budgeting for cities and towns in Washington state : a handbook for policy makers, chief appointed officials and others involved in the budget making process, developed by Michael Bailey, and Gayla Gjertsen for the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) and the Washington Finance Officers Association (WFOA)
  • Budget Suggestions for 2015, Municipal Research and Services Center, August 2013 - This publication contains budget calendars for cities and counties, summaries of 2013 legislation, revenue and inflation forecasts, and articles for those interested in city and county financial issues.
  • A Revenue Guide for Washington Cities and Towns, MRSC Report No. 46, revised, June 2009 [$16.00(City)/$24.00(Other] - Contains up-to-date information on revenue sources available to cities and towns for general government purposes, including the relevant statutory references and important court decisions
  • A Revenue Guide for Washington Counties, MRSC Report No. 53, revised, June 2010 - A Revenue Guide for Washington Counties intended primarily to assist county policymakers and administrators in understanding the array of revenue sources available for the various programs and services they provide. It is not a comprehensive listing of all the revenues available, but is rather an attempt to describe and explain the more important sources.

Other MRSC Finance/Budgeting Resources

Training for Newly Elected Officials

  • Elected Officials Essentials Workshop, Association of Washington Cities - See calendar for up to date information on AWC's schedule for training workshops.
  • MRSC Webinar Archive - MRSC provides relevant and timely training on issues of interest to local governments, such as ethics, public records, open government, governance, purchasing and contracting, customer service and public finance. This training is provided through webinars that we produce. MRSC staff are also frequent speakers at local government conferences.
  • Newly-Elected Officials Conference (WSAC/WACO), Washington Counties Training Institute

Last Modified: February 05, 2015