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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, or denote a council member chosen by the elected members themselves rather than by popular vote.[1]

The title is derived from the Old English title of ealdorman, literally meaning "elder man", and was used by the chief nobles presiding over shires.


Usage by country


In Australia

Many local government bodies used the term Alderman in Australia. As in the way local councils have been modernised in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the term Alderman has been discontinued in a number of places. An example of the use of the term Alderman was in the City of Adelaide.[2] Aldermen were elected from the electors in all the wards.[3]

In Canada

Historically, in Canada, the term "alderman" was used for those persons elected to a municipal council to represent the wards. As women were increasingly elected to municipal office, the term "councillor" slowly replaced "alderman", although there was some use of the term "alderperson". Today, the title of "alderman" is rarely used, except in some cities in Alberta and Ontario as well as some smaller municipalities elsewhere in the country that retain the title for historical reasons.

In the Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland the title was used by the first person elected in a multi-seat local government ward. The Local Government Act 2001 abolished the title as part of a modernisation of local government, and as such, none of the Councillors elected in the local elections of 2004 holds the title Alderman.[4] The title remains in use in Northern Ireland.

In the United Kingdom

Although the term originated in England, it had no clear definition there until the 19th century, as each municipal corporation had its own constitution. It was used in England, Wales and Ireland (all of Ireland being part of the U.K. from January 1801 up until December 1922), but was not used in Scotland. Under the Municipal Reform Act 1835, municipal borough corporations consisted of councillors and aldermen. Aldermen would be elected not by the electorate, but by the council (including the outgoing aldermen), for a term of six years, which allowed a party that narrowly lost an election to retain control by choosing aldermen. This was altered in 1910 not to allow outgoing aldermen to vote.[5][6] Aldermen were finally abolished under the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, except for London Boroughs where the position was abolished in 1978.[7] County councils also elected Aldermen, but not rural district and urban district councils.

Councils can still create honorary aldermen, often a reward for long service. This award is used much more often in Northern Ireland than in England or Wales. Northern Irish councils may additionally designate a quarter of their councillors as aldermen.

In the City of London Corporation, aldermen are elected for each ward, by the regular electorate, and until recently for life. To be a candidate to be Lord Mayor of the City of London, it is necessary to be an alderman and to have been a sheriff of the City of London.

In Scotland, the office of "baillie" bore some similarities.

"Alderman" was used for both men and women and could be prefixed to a person's name (e.g. Alderman John Smith, Alderman Smith, or, for women, Alderman Mrs (or Miss) Smith).

In the United States

"Board of Aldermen" is the governing executive or legislative body of many cities and towns in the United States. The term is sometimes used instead of city council, or is used of an executive board independent of the council, or is used of what amounts to an upper house of a bicameral legislature (as it was in New York City until the 20th Century). Its members are called "Alderman" or "Alderwoman",[8] while in the State of Wisconsin, the term "Alderperson" is officially used. Some cities, such as Chicago, mix the two terms, thereby having a city council composed of aldermen. Some states such as Pennsylvania established aldermen in the 19th century to serve as local judges for minor infractions. Pennsylvania's aldermen were phased out in the early 20th century. In this manner depending on the jurisdiction an alderman could have been part of the legislative or judicial local government. Boards of Aldermen are used in many rural areas of the United States as opposed to a larger city council or city commission.

Historically the term could also refer to local municipal judges in small legal proceedings (as in Pennsylvania[9] and Delaware).

Often alderman is shortened as Ald. "Ald. Danny Solis (25th) has overhauled the zoning application to spell out the purpose of the zoning change and identify everyone with an interest in the property -- including limited partnerships and liability corporations." Chicago Suntimes, Feb 10, 2010.

See also


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ALDERMAN (from A.-S. ealdorman, compounded of the comparative degree of the adjective eald, old, and man), a term implying the possession of an office of rank or dignity, and, in modern times, applied to an office-bearer in the municipal corporations and county councilsof England and Wales, and in the municipal corporations of Ireland and the United States. Among the Anglo-Saxons, earls, governors of provinces and other persons of distinction received this title. Thus we read of the aldermannus totius Angliae, who seems to have corresponded to the officer afterwards styled capitalis justiciarius Angliae, or chiefjustice of England; the aldermannus regis, probably an occasional magistrate, answering to the modern justice of assize, or perhaps an officer whose duty it was to prosecute for the crown; and aldermannus comitatus, a magistrate with a middle rank between what was afterwards called the earl and the sheriff, who sat at the trial of causes with the bishop and declared the common law, while the bishop proceeded according to ecclesiastical law. Besides these, we meet with the titles of aldermannus civitatis, burgi, castelli, hundredi sive wapentachii, &c. In England, before the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act, their functions varied according to the charters of the different boroughs. By the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, and other acts, consolidated by the Municipal Corporations Act 1882, the aldermen are elected by the councillors for six years, one-half going out every three years. The number of councillors in each borough varies according to its magnitude. One-fourth of the municipal council consists of aldermen and three-fourths of councillors. In the counties, too, the number of aldermen is one-third of the number of councillors, except in London, where it is one-sixth. In the municipal corporations of Scotland there is no such title as alderman, the office-bearers of corresponding rank there being termed bailies. The corporation of the city of London was not included in the Borough Reform Act, and the antiquated system remains there in full force. The court of aldermen consists of twenty-six, twenty-five of whom are elected for life by the freemen of the respective wards, who return two persons, one of whom the court of aldermen elect to supply the vacancy. The city is divided into twenty-six wards; twenty-four of these send up one alderman each, the other two combine to choose a twentyfifth. The twenty-sixth alderman serves for the independent borough of Southwark and is appointed by the other aldermen, who generally select the senior from among themselves when a vacancy occurs. The lord mayor is elected from such of the aldermen as have served the office of sheriff; of these the Common Hall, which consists of the freemen of the different wards, select two, and the aldermen elect one of these to the mayoralty. The court of aldermen has the power of appointment to certain offices, exercises judicial functions in regard to licensing and in disputes connected with the ward election, has some power of disposal over the city cash and possesses magisterial control over the city, each alderman being a judge and magistrate for the whole city, and by virtue of his office exercising the functions of a justice of the peace. The aldermen are members of the court of common council, the legislative body of the corporation, which consists in all 232 members, the remainder being elected annually by the freemen. In the United States aldermen form as a rule a legislative rather than a judicial body, although in some cities they hold courts and possess very considerable magisterial powers.

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