The government structure of Delaware County at one time consisted of a three member board of County Commissioners. Thanks in part to the Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law in 1972, local governments were permitted to study the structure of their respective governments and if needed make changes. In May 1975, the residents of Delaware County approved a Home Rule Charter plan which was later effective in January 1976. The County thus became the first in the state of Pennsylvania to become a Home Rule county. The charter offered new and progressive change in county government for the new structure enabled the new governing body, County Council to exercise more control over local government affairs.
Previously, the board of County Commissioners was permitted to act on matters designated by the State Legislature. The Home Rule Charter gives County Council the authority to pass ordinances, resolutions and proclamations and to provide budget and personnel to the needs of the residents as they arise. Council is responsible for adopting a budget each calendar year, raising funds through taxes or bonds for capital projects, setting payroll scales and employee size.
County Council is involved in activities pertaining to economic development, public transportation, waste disposal, human services, land use and culture. The Council also decides the best means of providing services which are required by law or are necessary for the well-being of the county, and determines the participation of the County in intergovernmental programs involving federal, state, and local government as well as distribute federal and state grants for social services.
The Council is also responsible for all legislative and administrative functions of the county government. Although Council has overall responsibility for all actions of county departments, the Executive Director, a County Council appointee is directly responsible for the operations of certain departments as outlined in the home rule charter or as assigned by county council. The primary administrative level staff assistance is provided council by the Executive Director and the County Clerk. Legal guidance and representation is provided by the solicitor.
Members of County Council are elected on an at large basis to four year terms at staggered two year intervals when municipal elections are held, which occur in odd numbered years.