Burlington has been the county seat of Des Moines County since Iowa became a district in the Wisconsin territory in 1836. Residents elect a three-member Board of Supervisors, a county attorney, sheriff, auditor, treasurer and recorder. All are elected at-large to four-year terms.

Burlington has a council-manager form of government, with five part-time council members elected at-large to serve four-year terms. Every two years, they elect a mayor. The council appoints the city clerk, city attorney and city manager. The city manager oversees the day-to-day operations and supervises 10 departments, including finance, public works, police, fire, parks and recreation, solid waste and wastewater treatment, development, human resources and senior volunteers.

Six elected officials—including five policy-making council members and a mayor who sets the agenda and has veto powers—govern West Burlington. The mayor’s term is two years, and the council members’ terms are four years. A city administrator oversees the day-to-day operations of police, public works, administration/finance and volunteer fire departments.

The other major components of local government in the community are the two cities’ public school systems and Southeastern Community College, all governed by an elected board of trustees.

Each government entity relies heavily on input from dozens of volunteer boards, commissions, committees and task forces (Burlington alone has more than 20), ensuring that citizens are not just heard, but welcomed into the decision-making and policy-setting processes.


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