skip navigation
Share this:

Candidate Information Resources for Local Government Elective Offices

This page provides information and resources for individuals who are thinking of running for local elected office or applying to fill a vacancy in local elected office in Washington State.

It is part of MRSC's series on Local Elections.


The resources gathered in this page are 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 (SOS) and the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) websites offer information on elections and voting, and various forms, compliance manuals and other resources for office candidates. See links below.


Association of Washington Cities (AWC)

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.

For links to statutes related to special purpose districts, see our page on Types of Special Purpose Districts in Washington State.

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

  • Commissioner Resources — Produced by the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts (AWPHD), this guide is designed to assist commissioners in determining the scope of their duties responsibilities under the law, provide a general overview of public hospital district law, and help answer other frequently asked questions regarding overall district operations.
  • Code City Handbook — Provides essential information for code city officials and incites their powers, duties, and alternatives that are available under the applicable forms of municipal government.
  • County Commissioner Guide — This MRSC 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.
  • Local Government Policy-Making Process — 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 and Councilmember Handbook — MRSC and the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) combined the previous Mayors Handbook and Councilmembers Handbook into one handy reference guide for all elected officials. Covers everything from presiding over meetings, resolving/preventing conflict, budget basics, statutes, parliamentary procedures, roles and responsibilities, open public meetings act, appearance of fairness and citizen participation. That’s just the start of the resources and advice you’ll find in the handbook. It’s an essential foundation for a successful council meeting. 
  • Small City Resource Manual — This resource manual from the Association of Washington Cities is meant to make life a little easier around city hall. It can be used to help orient new elected officials or city staff or as a reference when questions arise. It provides a brief overview of key topics, outlining the most important considerations. It also provides a list of resources to help you locate additional information. At the end of each chapter, you will find a list of pertinent resources and a more comprehensive listing of resources, state agencies and other partners can be found in the appendix.

Candidate Orientation Workshop Presentations

Local governments also produce materials and training to help orient prospective candidates for office. Below is an example of an orientation presentation:

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." All resources listed are produced by MRSC. 

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:

Training for Newly Elected Officials

Last Modified: May 04, 2023