Prior to the formation of Kansas City ’s government, Independence  was named the Jackson County seat in 1826. In the beginning, Independence was little more than a tree and a spring. But as travelers passed through to intersect with several trails, Independence’s role as a trading post helped the city rise to the role of Queen City of the Trails.
The Civil War brought a great deal of strife to Independence  and Jackson County, most notably because of General Ewing’s Order No. 11, which mandated that all persons living along the state line between the Missouri and Osage Rivers leave their farms. Artist George Caleb Bingham captured on canvas much of the misery provoked by the order. After the war ended, Jackson County residents returned to rebuild their lives—and their government.
In 1970, Jackson County became only the second county in Missouri to adopt a home-rule charter. Executive power in the county is held by the county executive, a full-time salaried position. The general population of Jackson County elects the county executive for a four-year term. In addition, a county legislature passes ordinances and other similar documents, a body comprised of nine members: six elected from smaller districts within the county and three elected at large by voters of the whole county. Terms are four years and begin on January 1.
In 1889, a Kansas City  charter established a city council comprised of 14 at-large aldermen in an “upper house” to serve four-year terms, and 14 ward alderman in a “lower house” to serve two-year terms. The local legislative system worked as a fairly harmonious and effective unit, yet in 1925 a sweeping political change was enacted that would forever change Kansas City’s governmental landscape. By a 4:1 ratio, Kansas Citians voted to throw out the previous model and instead replace it with a nine-member, non-partisan council. The mayor would be one part of the council, have no veto, and would appoint a city manager, an expert to hire and fire city employees based solely on performance.
Political scientists were thrilled with the new model, and predicted that not only would the new system eliminate pesky political patronage but would also leave Kansas City in the fate of nonpartisan managers, eliminating the partisan bickering and squabbling that had clouded so many other governmental bodies.
But “Boss” Tom Pendergast, one of the biggest political bosses of the early 20th century, would not be deterred by the new governmental body. Instead, he saw it easier to befriend a smaller group of councilpeople and quickly ushered handpicked candidates into five of the nine seats. It was a rapid and sweeping domination that would leave Pendergast the new political dominator of the city, and the true winner within the city’s newly instated political system.
Today, Kansas City  is governed by a 13-member city council that includes the mayor. The city is divided into six council districts, with the mayor and six councilmembers elected at-large. The remaining six councilmembers are elected by voters within their respective districts. Kansas City’s current mayor, Mark Funkhouser, has received an overwhelming amount of negative publicity thanks to near-constant skirmishes with the city council over a variety of topics, including the status of his wife, Gloria Squitiro, as a city volunteer. In a time when Kansas City is facing massive budget shortfalls, prevalent crime and pressing civic issues like road improvements, a number of citizens have become increasingly impatient with what they see as a lack of leadership on many levels. In the summer of 2009, concerned citizens launched a recall campaign against Mayor Funkhouser, an effort that fell short by a few hundred petition signatures.
Previous to Mayor Funkhouser, mayor Kay Barnes served two terms in Kansas City and is largely credited with overseeing the necessary logistical and financial concerns that led to the early stages of downtown Kansas City’s development renaissance, most notably the Sprint Center .