History of the County Commissioners' Office

The Territory of Colorado

The Territory of Colorado was created by Congress on February 28, 1861. Earlier, a Jefferson Territory was organized and functioned from 1859 to 1861, although its existence was not ratified by Congress. Jefferson County was established in the Jefferson Territory, but a board of county commissioners was not included among its officers. The first Colorado Territorial Legislature established Jefferson County and 16 other counties on November 1, 1861, and directed the Governor to appoint three commissioners from each county to serve until their successors were elected and qualified. The three temporary commissioners appointed in Jefferson County were John M. Ferrel, S. C. Field, and George H. Richardson.

The First Commissioners

In the election held December 7, 1861, three commissioners were elected by 534 voters. The candidate receiving the most votes (Theodore Perry Boyd) won a three year term, the one receiving the next highest number of votes (Thomas C. Bergen) was elected for two years, and the candidate receiving the third most votes (David K. Wall) was elected for a one year term. All took office in January 1862, and thereafter one commissioner was elected for a three year term at each year's general election.

The commissioners' term of office was increased from three to four years by a 1902 constitutional amendment. Since then, two commissioners have been elected every leap year and one commissioner two years later.

Until 1978, vacancies on the board of county commissioners due to death, resignation, or removal were filled by appointment of the Governor. Under State law, vacancies now are filled by political party vacancy committees.

Beginning in 1862, the Board of County Commissioners was authorized by the legislature to meet four times a year for up to nine days to conduct business. The commissioners' pay in 1862 was $3 per day for meetings plus 15 cents per mile for travel to and from the county seat. Today, the county commissioners serve full-time and receive an annual salary that is set by the Colorado Legislature.

Commissioner Districts

Each commissioner represents and must reside within one of three commissioner districts, although all are elected at large. The districts first defined by the county commissioners in 1862 were as follows: District 1 comprised roughly the eastern half of the county; District 2 the northwest quarter of the county; and District 3 the southwest quarter of the county. District boundaries are adjusted periodically to reflect changes in county population distribution.