City Government Structure

An inside look explaining the structure of St. Louis City government and how it works.


The governmental structure of the City of St. Louis is unusual in the United States. Since 1876, St. Louis has been an independent city, meaning it is not part of any county. St. Louis operates as both a city and a county. St. Louis is the only city in Missouri which operates its own "county" offices. St. Louis is a home rule city, but it is not a home rule county, thus county functions and offices are subject to state restrictions on county governments. 

St. Louis County is an entirely separate governmental entity surrounding the City of St. Louis.

City Functions

The Board of Aldermen

The Board of Aldermen is the city's legislative body, which develops and approves city ordinances and resolutions. 

  • Consists of 14 Aldermen.
  • Each elected separately from 14 wards to four year terms.
  • Every two years, half the aldermen are elected.

President of the Board of Aldermen

  • The President of the Board of Aldermen casts the 15th vote on the Board of Aldermen
  • Is elected citywide to a four year term. 
  • Also serves as a member of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.


  • The Mayor is the city's chief executive officer. 
  • Has power to appoint major department and bureau heads and members of city boards and commissions. 
  • Does not have a vote in the Board of Aldermen, but does have power to veto ordinances.
  • Is elected citywide to a four year term.
  • Of the city departments, 22 are under the authority of the Mayor
  • Also serves as a member of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.


  • The Comptroller supervises the fiscal affairs of the City.
  • The office is responsible for all accounting, payroll and auditing functions.
  • Is elected citywide to a four year term.
  • Also serves as a member of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment

  • Also known as E&A, is the city's main fiscal body.
  • Controls the city budget and sets the budget ceiling.
  • Consists of three citywide elected officials: the Mayor, the President of the Board of Aldermen, and the Comptroller.
  • The city's Budget Division reports to E&A.

Organization Chart for City of St. Louis Government

City of St. Louis Organization Chart

County Functions

Because the City of St. Louis is independent of any county, the judicial and revenue collection functions usually performed by a county government are part of the City of St. Louis. The eight "county offices" are each separately elected offices with separate staffs. They are each elected to four year terms.

  • Circuit Attorney represents the people in prosecuting criminal acts.
  • Circuit Clerk records the judgements, rules, orders and other proceedings of the Circuit Court En Banc. The Circuit Clerk also handles and accounts for the funds generated from Circuit Court fees. Historically an elected office, now appointed by Circuit Judges.
  • Collector Of Revenue collects real estate taxes, personal property taxes, payroll and earnings taxes, and water bills.
  • License Collector issues most licenses and receipts for license taxes. The License Collector issues 60 different types of licenses.
  • Public Administrator handles estates for people who left no wills or survivors and serves as guardian for some incapacitated people.
  • Recorder of Deeds records and serves as a repository for legal documents which affect title to real estate, and issues marriage licenses, birth certificates, and death certificates.
  • Sheriff provides security for the Circuit Court, transports prisoners between the Courts and detention facilities, serves court papers and eviction notices, and issues jury summons and gun permits.
  • Treasurer is the head of the City's banking systems and parking services operation.

State Statutory Agencies

A few additional agencies have been created and are under state statutory authority, not under the mayor's office.

  • Board of Election Commissioners, appointed by the Governor of Missouri, runs elections, registers voters, and processes petitions within the City of St. Louis.
  • St. Louis Housing Authority is an independent municipal corporation that owns and contracts for management of the 5,011 public housing units in 43 developments throughout the City of St. Louis. The Housing Authority is funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and is governed by a seven member board of commissioners. Five commissioners are appointed by the Mayor with Board of Aldermen approval, and two are elected by tenants.
  • Tower Grove Park is owned by the City of St. Louis, however, it is managed separately from the 105 parks maintained by the Parks Division. Tower Grove Park is governed by a special Board of Commissioners appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Independent Special Districts

  • St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) provide preschool through grade twelve public education services within the boundaries of the City of St. Louis. However, SLPS is, like any other school district in Missouri, an entity independent of any municipal government.
  • Special Administration Board of Education Currently, the St. Louis Public Schools District is under the governance of a three-member Special Administrative Board (SAB).  One member is appointed by the Governor, one by the Mayor of St. Louis and one by the President of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. SLPS is primarily funded through its property tax levy, as well as Federal, state and desegregation sales tax funds.
  • St. Louis Public Library (SLPL) operates 16 libraries throughout the City of St. Louis. It is not part of the city government, but its nine-member Board of Directors[] is appointed by the Mayor for staggered three-year terms. SLPL is funded through a special property tax levy.
  • City of St. Louis Mental Health Board is a special taxing district that finances mental health and substance abuse treatment services in the City of St. Louis. It is not part of the city government, but is managed by an eleven-member board of commissioners appointed by the Mayor.
  • St. Louis Office for Developmental Disability Resources is a public agency whose responsibility is to distribute City tax dollars for services for individuals with developmental disabilities. The office is funded through a special property tax allocation, listed on tax bills as "Sheltered Workshop."

Regional Special Districts 

The Zoo-Museum District

The Zoo-Museum District (ZMD) is a City of St. Louis/St. Louis County regional district established in 1972 that provides funding for:

Zoo-Museum District Logo

Although the Zoo, Art Museum and Science Center (formerly the McDonnell Planetarium) were once City of St. Louis-operated, today they are each independent entities, financed by property taxes levied through the ZMD. Thanks to these property tax levies, all these institutions except the Missouri Botanical Garden are FREE to all visitors. (The Missouri Botanical Garden is free to St. Louis and St. Louis County residents until noon every Wednesday and Saturday).

Other Entities

The Regional Arts Commission (RAC) provides funding for arts and cultural programs, through a hotel/motel tax levied in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County. The fifteen Commissioners are appointed jointly by the Mayor and County Executive and serve four-year terms.

The St. Louis Convention & Visitor's Commission (d.b.a. Explore St. Louis) is the driving force behind St. Louis' $5 billion convention and tourism industry. It is also the official destination marketing organization of St. Louis City and County, and operator of the America's Center Convention Complex. The organization is funded by hotel/motel tax and rents and revenues from the operation of the America's Center Convention Complex. The CVC's 11-member Board of Commissioners is headed by a chairman appointed by the Governor of Missouri, and five members appointed by the Mayor of the City of St. Louis and five by the St. Louis County Executive.

The St. Louis-St. Louis County Junior College District (JCD) oversees the St. Louis Community College, a system of 30,000+ students with three campuses and four extension centers, including the Forest Park campus, Harrison Northside Education Center, and Cosand Downtown Education Center in the City of St. Louis. The community college system provides instruction leading to the associate of arts and associate of science degrees. 

The Junior College District Board of Trustees consists of six members from St. Louis and St. Louis County, representing the four sub-districts of the JCD and elected periodically by district voters for staggered six-year terms.

The Bi-State Development Agency, currently doing business as Metro but still legally named Bi-State, operates the bus and light-rail (MetroLink) system in St. Louis and the surrounding counties. The public bus system in St. Louis is not a city operation. Metro is also responsible for the Call-A-Ride para-transit service, primarily serving the disabled, as well as the Gateway Arch Tram System, the Gateway Arch Parking Garage, the Gateway Arch Riverboats, and Downtown-Parks Airport in Cahokia, IL. Metro is headed by a 10 member Board of Commissioners (5 from Missouri, 5 from Illinois) appointed by the Mayor, St. Louis County Executive, and St. Clair and Madison Counties in Illinois. By tradition, the Mayor appoints 2 of the Missouri commissioners, and rotates with the county executive for a 3rd slot.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) manages the surface drainage and sewage treatment system in the City of St. Louis and in St. Louis County east of Missouri Highway 109. Both primary and secondary treatment facilities are provided at the Bissell Point Plant on East Grand Avenue at the Mississippi River in North St. Louis and at the Lemay Plant on South Broadway near River des Peres, just south of the City limits. MSD is governed by a six member Board of Trustees. Three members are appointed by the Mayor and three members are appointed by the St. Louis County Executive.

The East-West Gateway Council of Governments (EWGC) is the metropolitan planning organization and council of governments for the St. Louis region. The region's major elected officials sit on the board of East-West Gateway, deciding regional priorities for major transportation projects. Both the mayor and the president of the board of aldermen sit on the East-West Gateway board, as well as one City of St Louis resident appointed by the mayor.

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