History of Harford County Government

Harford County Government was governed by a county commissioner from the time it was created by the state legislature in 1773 until 1972. In December 1972, the Harford County Charter was enacted and gave the county a system of home rule. The charter provided for legislative and executive branches of government.

County executive

The county executive is the chief executive officer of Harford County and heads the executive branch of the county's government. Elected every four years, the county executive is aided by a cabinet composed of directors from 23 departments and agencies including:

County Council

The seven-member Harford County Council operates as the legislative branch. Every four years, six council members are elected, one from each of the county's six voting districts. The remaining council member is elected at large to serve as council president. The panel meets in legislative session on the first three Tuesdays of each month.

County seat

The county seat in Harford County is in downtown Bel Air. The courthouse on main Street was constructed in 1859 on the site of the original courthouse, which was destroyed by fire early in the same year. Little has changed to alter the appearance of the courtroom and a valuable collection of portraits of Harford Countians are on display there. The rostrum, lawyer's table and benches, restored in 1933, are made of black walnut.

The Mary Risteau Building, named after Mary Risteau (1890-1978), a leader of legislative, educational and civic affairs, was built on Bond Street directly behind the courthouse to accommodate the lower courts and government offices. The original courthouse is used for ceremonial proceedings and juried trials. The State's Attorneys office is also there.

County seal

The county seal uses gold to symbolize the wealth of the county and the richness of its fields. Across the shield are waving bands of blue signifying three major county streams - Deer Creek, Bynum Run, and Winters Run. The crest is a two-handed forearm with the hand on the left holding a white quill symbolizing the pen used by those who wrote and signed the Bush Resolution. The hand on the right holds a sword as if presenting into the right hand of the nation, the skills of reproducing defense materials at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The motto "At the Risque of Our Lives and Fortunes" comprises the last eight words of the Bush Resolution and preserves the same spelling for "risk" as used in that document.


The first official flag, bearing the county seal on a field of blue, was unveiled by the county executive in 1974.