In March of 1893, Grass Valley was incorporated and became a Charter City. The Constitution of the State of California grants Charter Cities a large degree of control over local affairs, independent of the State government. The Charter  has been amended several times since it was established. The most recent revision of the Charter was adopted on November 4, 2012 by a vote of the people.

Grass Valley's revised Charter establishes a Council-Manager form of government, in which the elected Council provides political leadership and sets policy while the City Manager directs the various City departments in carrying out that policy. Policymaking and legislative authorities are vested in the City Council, which is comprised of five members, including the mayor. The governing council is responsible, among other things, for passing ordinances and resolutions, making public policy decisions, adopting the budget, appointing boards, commissions and committees, approving contracts, authorizing real estate transactions, awarding bids, selling property, and hiring the government’s City Manager. The current Mayor of Grass Valley is Howard Levine. The Vice Mayor is Lisa Swarthout. The remaining members of the Council are Jan Arbuckle, Jason Fouyer and Ben Aguilar. All members serve 4 year terms with Council elections held each even numbered year and consolidated with the November General Election, with members being elected alternately 2 in one election year and 3 in the next election year.

The City Manager is the chief administrative officer of the City and is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the City Council. The City Manager is responsible for carrying out the policies and ordinances of the City Council, for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the government, and appointing and managing the City's department heads.

The City of Grass Valley provides a full range of services including police and fire protection; the construction and maintenance of highways, streets and other infrastructure; wastewater treatment and disposal; water treatment and distribution; planning; building; economic development; recreational activities; public transportation services and cultural events. 

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