Milwaukee County was formed in 1835 when it was part of the Michigan Territory. Prior to that, the area had been settled by a variety of Native American tribes, and was explored by French Priests and traders as far back as 1674. The name “Milwaukee” is generally believed to be derived from a Native American term meaning “good land.”
Today Milwaukee County is, by population, the largest county in the State of Wisconsin and the 47th largest in the United States with 951,448 residents. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan and covering 241 square miles, Milwaukee County is a mixture of metropolitan, suburban, and rural living. Milwaukee County is one of the few fully-incorporated counties in the United States and includes 19 municipalities that range from a large urban center in the City of Milwaukee with 595,047 residents to small villages such as River Hills with a population of 1,597.
Milwaukee County is governed by a county executive as the county’s chief executive officer, with legislative power exercised by the county board of supervisors, generally through the enactment of ordinances and the adoption of resolutions. Other county elected officials are required by either the state constitution or state statute and include the sheriff, district attorney, clerk, treasurer, register of deeds, judges, and a clerk of circuit court.
As a unit of local government, Milwaukee County collects property taxes, constructs and maintains county highways, engages in land use planning, and maintains parks and recreational facilities. In Wisconsin, counties are also considered an administrative arm of the state because they are required to carry out or enforce certain state laws. For example, counties are required to maintain judicial court records, manage state elections, keep vital statistics and property records (birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, and property deeds), and enforce and prosecute state criminal laws. Milwaukee County is also required to carry out various state programs, such as health and human services programs.
Milwaukee County is a Midwestern hub for business, travel, industry, recreation, and culture. A strong sense of community makes Milwaukee County a great place to live, work, and raise a family.