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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Council of State

by John V. Orth, 2006

The Council of State comprises North Carolina's executive branch of government. Under the North Carolina Constitution, it is composed of ten elected officers: the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, attorney general, and commissioners of agriculture, labor, and insurance. The locus of considerable power in the antebellum period, the modern Council of State is assigned little power directly by the state constitution. It is given an important role by statute in certain decisions, particularly in the purchase of property by the state.

Update from N.C. Government & Heritage Library staff: 

Article III of North Carolina's State Constitution enumerates the composition and powers of the state's Executive Branch, as well as the function and powers of the Council of State.  To learn more, visit Article III online:

Additional Resources:

Website for the Office of the Governor of North Carolina:

Website for the Executive Branch of the State of North Carolina: (includes listing of Council of State)

State of North Carolina. Constitution of 1971: Article III.




How does the Council of State function? Does it as a body manage anything? Who convenes it? Who or how are its topics selected? If the body decides issue, to whom is the decision directed?


The council of state recently recommended the DMV Headquarters be relocated to Rocky Mount. Does the council have the final say on this move or is it possible the decision could still be overturned? Did the council taken into consideration the cost of losing 50% or more of the currently employees that are unwilling to relocate or commute that far?


Dear Bill,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and taking time to ask your question.  And it's a really great question!

The Council of State is the collective group of officials that make up the state's executive branch of government and it is provided for under Article III of the state constitution establishing the executive branch.  Members of the Council are elected officials, elected by voters in statewide elections every four years and they serve four year terms until the next election.  

Today the Council of State consists of the elected heads of the of the executive branch: Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture, Commissioner of Insurance, Secretary of State, Secretary of Labor, State Auditor, State Treasurer, and Superintendent of Public Instruction. 
 (The Council of State is not the same as the governor's cabinet. The cabinet is composed of other agency leaders that are appointed by the governor. These include the heads of the departments of:  Administration, Commerce, Natural and Cultural Resources, Environmental Quality, Health and Human Services, Public Safety, Revenue, Transportation, and Military and Veterans Affairs.)  You may also be interested in this NCpedia article on the Executive Branch:

The Council meets periodically, chaired by the Governor. It has a number of powers, including the authority to call for additional legislative special sessions (outside of the normal legislative calendar) and the power to make decisions about selling state property and taking on loans. You will see these briefly specified in Article III of the state constitution:

You may also be interested in this historical research report from the NC Office of Archives and History on the subject of the Council of State:  It includes a compilation of various activities and decisions of the Council over time.  

I hope this helps!  Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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