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Rutherford was incorporated in 1881 under the Borough form of government, the most common type in New Jersey. With a seven member governing body, the mayor of the Borough is elected every four years and two council members are elected at large each year for 3-year terms. Under this form of government, council members act as the legislative body with the mayor voting only in the event of a tie. Most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.

Council members receive committee assignments by the mayor annually and serve as liaisons during the year between Borough departments and committees and the governing body. Meetings of the Mayor and Council are held on a regular basis for conducting Borough business. The Regular Meetings of the Mayor and Council are held the second and fourth Monday of each month at 6:00 p.m. All meetings are held in the Borough Hall and are open to the public unless confidentiality, as permitted by state law, requires that certain portions be closed.

The Borough operates with numerous committees to assist the government in carrying out its responsibilities. In addition to statutory bodies such as the planning board and zoning board of adjustment, dozens of volunteers staff other committees appointed annually. These committees provide invaluable assistance through their work and development of recommendations to the governing body to improve the quality of live in the community. Residents are encouraged to participate in this process.