In 2002, local government in Tennessee was exercised by 92 counties and 349 municipalities. The county, a direct descendant of the Anglo-Saxon shire, has remained remarkably unaltered in Tennessee since it was brought from Virginia and North Carolina in frontier days. The constitution specifies that county officials must include at least a register, trustee (the custodian of county funds), sheriff, and county clerk, all of whom hold office for four years. Other officials have been added by legislative enactment: county commissioners, county executives (known for many years as county judges or county chairmen), tax assessors, county court clerks, and superintendents of public schools.
City government is of more recent origin than county government. There are three forms of municipal government: mayor-council (or mayor-alderman), council-manager, and commission. The mayor-council system is the oldest and by far the most widely employed. There were 14 public school districts and 475 special districts in 2002.