Counties in North Carolina are created by the state legislature, which has the authority to abolish or re-draw counties. State constitutional changes, the most recent in 1971, have considerably altered the forms of county government and increased the measure of home rule permitted, so that today many intra-county, inter-county and regional arrangements can be made.
A Board of Commissioners serves as the governing body of Stanly County, with the administration of the government under the direction of the county manager, who is hired by the commissioners. The county commissioners are elected to four-year staggered terms, with elections conducted every two years. Candidates for commissioner must be residents of the county, registered voters, and 21 or older.
In 1962, the City of Albemarle (the County seat) adopted the Council-Manager form of government. Thus, it is governed by a mayor and seven (7) city council members and is administered by a city manager. Each of the other towns in the county is governed by a mayor and town council or by town commission members. In keeping with its early heritage, the county has traditionally been governed by the two-party system.
The city and county have modern fire and police protection, which are maintained at a high level of efficiency. Each city and town has its own fire department.