Advisory Boards and Commissions
This page provides a basic overview of local government advisory boards, task forces, commissions, and committees in Washington State, including relevant statutes and local examples.
Cities and counties appoint citizen boards, commissions, task forces, and committees to advise their legislative bodies on a wide range of policy issues. Some of these boards are designated by statute for a specific purpose, such as a building code board of appeals. Other boards and commissions may be authorized by statute, but it is left up to the discretion of the local governing body whether to create an advisory board or commission.
The membership of the board may, or may not, be designated by statute. Cities and counties have also created permanent or "standing" advisory committees by ordinance. One example is a design review board.
Local governments may also create "ad hoc" advisory boards or task forces, which are typically appointed and convened for a limited period of time, to focus on a specific issue facing the jurisdiction.
The use of boards and commissions may provide advantages, such as providing an in-depth examination of issues or a communication channel between elected officials and the community, bringing a broad range of ideas and expertise to public decision-making, assisting in the resolution of conflicts, and providing training for new leaders.
For tips on how to recruit advisory board members, see our blog post Successful Tips for Recruiting Board and Commission Members (2013).
For City Manager Cities
- RCW 35.18.060 - The council may provide for the appointment by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the council, of the city planning commission and other advisory citizens' committees, commissions and boards advisory to the city council.
- RCW 35A.13.080 - The council may provide for the appointment by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the council, of a city planning commission and other advisory citizens' committees, commissions, and boards advisory to the city council.
- List of City/Town Statutorily Required Boards Under Certain Conditions
- List of City Town Optional Boards and Commissions
- List of County Statutorily Required Boards and Commission Under Certain Circumstances
- List of County Optional Boards and Commissions
These provisions set forth council-adopted policies regarding advisory boards and commissions, including their purpose, selection and appointment procedures, qualifications, terms, responsibilities and expectations, and the relationship between the advisory bodies and the governing body. Additional noteworthy provisions for each sample policy/code are highlighted below.
- Bainbridge Island Ordinance No. 2019-01 (2019) – Establishes uniform procedures for removal or resignation of advisory board members, as well as for demoting the chair of an advisory board
- Black Diamond Municipal Code Ch. 2.95 – General procedures for ad hoc advisory committees
- Bremerton Municipal Code Ch. 2.88 – Describes purpose, scope, and membership of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Advisory Committee
- Bothell City Council Protocol Manual Ch. 2.08 – Offers reappointment criteria and defines councilmembers’ roles and relationships with city advisory bodies
- Clallam County Policy and Procedure 952: Boards and Committees
- Douglas County Resolution No. CE 10-68 (2010) – Under Appointment Procedure, see section on Filling Mid-Term Vacancies
- Edgewood Council Rules of Procedures (2021) – See Section 6, City Advisory Bodies
- Lynnwood Municipal Code Ch. 2.24 – Advisory Bodies - General Provisions
- Mercer Island Council Procedures (2022) – See Section 8, City Advisory Boards and Commissions
- Olympia Ordinance No. 7275 (2021) – Amends municipal code by substituting the term "community member" for "citizen" and providing a stipend per meeting attended to defray related incidental expenses in an effort to encourage broad participation and diversity in the makeup of boards, commissions, and committees.
- Seattle Municipal Code Ch. 3.98 – Requires biennial review of boards and commissions
- Snohomish Municipal Code Ch. 2.06 – Uniform Policies for Boards and Commissions
- Sunnyside Municipal Code Ch. 2.50 – Citizen Advisory Boards and Commissions
- Whatcom County Code Ch. 2.03 – Boards and Commissions
- Ellensburg Handbook for Councilmembers and Board, Commission & Committee Members (2018)
- Cowlitz County Resource Manual for Committees and Advisory Boards (2014)
- Kitsap County Advisory Groups webpage — Includes resources and handbook
To increase youth participation in local government and get youth perspective on issues, some jurisdictions have established dedicated youth commissions and/or provided seats for youth members on other advisory boards. For examples, see our page Youth Participation in Local Government.
Many jurisdictions offer webpages that list all of their boards and commissions and include information about their functions, membership, meeting times, agendas, and meeting packets.
Cities and Towns
- Aberdeen Boards & Commissions
- Bellingham Boards and Commissions
- Issaquah Boards and Commissions
- Kennewick Boards and Commissions
- Kirkland Boards and Commissions
- Monroe Boards and Commissions
- Renton Boards/Commissions/Committees
- Spokane Boards, Commissions, and Councils
- Tacoma Committees, Boards, and Commissions
- Tumwater Commissions & Advisory Boards
- Wenatchee Boards and Commissions
- Benton County Boards and Commissions
- King County Boards and Commissions
- Lewis County Advisory Boards and Commissions
- Lake Forest Park Analysis of Volunteer Advisory Groups (2007) — Independent review of city’s advisory bodies
- University of Tennessee: Creating Effective Citizen Advisory Committees - Using Short-Term Advisory Committees to Help Resolve Local Problems (2009)