CEA began as a league formed by county executives who believed that the job as the chief elected officer of a county was too important to overlook. Their initial desire to create an alliance that assists county officers in executing their duties sparked a dramatic evolution that produced today's association.
CEA's current membership includes county executives, county judges, parish and borough presidents, city-county mayors, commission presidents and chairs, and all county leaders elected at-large by the public constituency.
A long-time affiliate group of the National Association of Counties, CEA has operated as an independent organization since 1994. With its headquarters in Washington D.C., CEA brings together top-level local officials to discuss and determine policy on wide-ranging issues that affect local governments and the people they serve.
CEA also provides a voice at the national level among the various policy making representatives including members and staff of the United States Congress, officials in the Executive Branch at both the federal and state government level and various interest groups and associations based on Capitol Hill.
CEA is governed by a Board of Directors and selected Executive Officers. The Board President is elected and serves two-year terms.
There are over 700 counties, out of 3,000 in the United States, that follow an executive form of government. In New York or Michigan the elected official is called a county executive. In Kentucky or Texas, counties use the title judge but are assigned executive responsibilities. By comparison, New York City is divided into boroughs and managed by an elected official with the title of borough president. Each president, however, has centralized executive authority to carry out local services similar to that of a county executive. County governments can, and do, change formats. Some, such as Denver, Colorado, combine city and county governments under one structure. Others, such as Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh area) and Salt Lake County, Utah, have moved from a board of commissioners format to a county executive format. The variety of executive formats in county government is a result of local needs, and state regulations.