The Three Branches of Government
I recently spoke to a group of elementary school students who were learning about the three branches of government. Boy, these kids were smart! Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, Judicial Branch… these kids knew all three. I enjoyed our conversation so much I decided to devote this next article on the three branches of government and give examples of each branch right here in our own city government.
The Legislative Branch is the branch that makes the laws. In Washington, this is done by the House of Representatives and the Senate. In Clinton, we’ve elected Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, and Congressman Jeff Duncan (who is from right here in Laurens County, I might add) to represent us in Washington.
On the state level in Columbia, we have a state House of Representatives and a state Senate. In Clinton, we’ve elected Senator Danny Verdin and Representatives Mike Anthony and Mark Willis to represent us in Columbia.
However, on the city level, we have one chamber instead of two called our city council. The citizens elect six council members from single districts and one mayor at large, who also presides over the council. As the main legislative branch for the city, our job is to pass laws and set the policies for the city of Clinton.
Our Executive Branch—the branch that enforces the laws and policy set by the city council—is led by our City Manager, Bill Ed Cannon. It is his job to attend council meetings and carry out the policies we set as a council on a day-to-day basis. This is done through several different departments: the Department of Public Safety which keeps us safe, while the Department of Public Works keeps our lights on and our water running.
It is Mr. Cannon’s job to make sure the city is running efficiently and in accordance with the laws that the legislative branch has set. We are very fortunate to have a talented City Manager serving our city. Without the executive branch, the laws and policies that we set in the legislative branch would not be carried out on a daily basis.
One branch we don’t think about on the city level is the Judicial Branch. But, yes, we have one! If you’ve ever been pulled over by one of our public safety personnel for driving too fast or not wearing a seat belt, you’ve probably gone through our Judicial Branch. This branch is led by our municipal judge, Bob Link. He interprets the laws and judges whether or not they’ve been broken. For instance, a citizen brings up the need to put up a new stop sign at an intersection, he or she would contact a city council member, and we would write, debate, and pass an ordinance.
Once the ordinance is passed, the City Manager would then instruct the proper city personnel to put up the new stop sign. If someone is caught not stopping at a stop sign, that person would receive a ticket from a public safety officer and stand trial in our court. Judge Link would hear the case and decide if the person is innocent or guilty.
The three branches of government is a delicate balance, and it is important for all of us—legislative, executive, judicial—to do our part in moving our city forward. I enjoy serving as your Mayor and doing my part in the Legislative Branch, creating new laws and policies to make our city a better, safer place to live and work. Our city council always appreciates citizen input! If you ever need anything or have any ideas on how to make our city better, don’t hesitate to call me at 380-5176 or stop by my office. Let’s keep moving Clinton forward!
(Bob McLean is mayor of Clinton.)