How to address a Councilman: member of a city council, town council, county council?

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   3. Q&A on
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How to Address a Member of a
City, Town or County -- Council or Board

Councilmen and councilwomen are roles filled by citizens on a a town, city or county council. The position can be either elected or appointed.
      Counselor, counsellor, councilor
or councillor are spelling used in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and other parts of the Commonwealth, and sometimes in the United States. They have the advantage of being gender neutral.

On an Letter Address Block or Envelope:
Technically anyone elected to office in the U.S. in a general election is entitled to be addressed
as The Honorable. In practice however, while some members of local councils are addressed as The Honorable, many (perhaps most) are not.
     For those who are not
addressed as The Honorable, address as Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr./etc. (Name) and identify them by their office. The etc. means to use whatever honorific they normally use. For those who are addressed as The Honorable, see the forms below.
    The only way to be certain of the tradition in your community is to call the office of your local council or board and check.

In a Salutation or Conversation:
Members of U.S. councils and boards are most formally addressed
as Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr./etc. (Surname): or orally as Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr./etc. (Surname).
councilwoman are not formally used as honorifics in a salutation or in direct oral address. However, the staff of a member of a council may use the terms as honorifics for clarity, as when answering the phone “Councilman (surname)’s office” rather than “Mr./Ms. (surname)’s office” or when referring to the member in the third person as "the Councilman will be returning in ten minutes."
    All that said, while Councilman/Councilwoman (surname) may not be the most traditional, it is sometimes the preferred honorific of a particular member, so follow the preference of the bearer.

Envelope, official:  See note above regarding use of  The Honorable.
    The Honorable (full name)
        (Title of position held), (Elected Body)
        for example
           The Honorable Richard Trotter
           Member, Montgomery County Board

    The Honorable (full name)
        (Elected body) of (jurisdiction)
        for example
           The Honorable Harriet Winslow
           Board of Supervisors, Culpeper County

Letter salutation:
    Dear Mr./Ms. (surname):
         or if the preference of the bearer
   Dear Councilman/Councilwoman (surname):


FYI, here is what's come in to the Blog that relates to this office/rank.
   For recent questions sent in, check out Robert Hickey's Blog.

   For specific offices/ranks, check out Robert Hickey's On-Line Guide.

How to Address a City or County Council Member?
       I am sending a letter to each City Councilmen. How do I address Sue Smith, who is a member of the City Council?
        -- Kitty Anderson, Jacksonville, Florida

       I'm going to be conducting a mailing to the members of the Cattarugus County Legislature, shortly. What's the appropriate way to address each legislator on the mailing label?
       -- Allison Noonan in New York

Dear Ms. Anderson:
     Anyone in the US who is elected to public office in a general election is technically entitled to be t addressed as the Honorable.
But at a local level, many cities, towns and counties don't address members of their elected councils, boards, and committees as such. So your only option is to call board, council, or legislature's office and ask "what is the local tradition?".
1) If you discover that local officials are not addressed as The Honorable then, a letter would be:
        Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr./etc. (Full Name)
            (Name of council or legislature)
                (Full Address)

    The salutation would be:
         Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr./etc. (Family Name):

2) If local officials are addressed as The Honorable then:
        The Honorable (Full Name)
(Name of council or legislature)
                (Full Address)

    The salutation would again be:
         Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr./etc. (Family Name):

    In some jurisdictions they may informally use as an honorific councilman, alderman, freeholder, council woman, council person, council member or something equivalent, but Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr./etc. will be correct in writing.
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Committeeman?
          How would you address (letter and envelope) to a Union NJ Committeeman?

                    ~ Kathleen P. McK.

Dear Ms. McK.:
         In my book I have a form for a member of a city our county council.
         I give much more in my book of course -- and only cover some of the basics here on-line.
         In the salutation Mr./Ms. (Surname): would be the most formal
          .... but it would not be incorrect to use Dear Committeeman (Surname):

           -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Freeholder?
       Could you please provide me with the proper way to address a Freeholder?

            -- Cynthia Davis

Dear Ms. Davis:
       The short answer is to address freeholders on a letter or envelope, or list their name on a program as:
             The Honorable (Full Name)
And in conversation or in a salutation use:

              Mr./Ms./Mrs./Miss/etc. (Surname)
etc. means to use whatever honorific they normally use. There is no special honorific for freeholders.
       For those who don't know what a freeholder is .... elected county officials in New Jersey are called “freeholders.” 
       The term is rooted in the colonial period when only men with land, then called a freehold, were permitted to vote or serve in elected office.  In most other states holders of the equivalent office are known as county commissioners or county council members.
      In most counties freeholders are elected at-large, or countywide.  In several counties, however, some or all freeholders are elected by district.  In Atlantic County and Essex Counties, the some freeholders are elected at-large and others are elected by district.  In Hudson County, all freeholders are elected by district.  Whether to elect freeholders by district or at large is determined by county referenda.

              -- Robert Hickey

Use of Councilor for Members of a Council
Our local newspaper, when writing about members of the City Council, always refers to them as councilor.  My husband and I feel that they should be referred to as councilman/woman or council member.  Are we being too nit-picky?
      -- CRH

Dear CRH,
         Are you near the U.S.-Canadian border?  Councilor (and councillor with two "L"s is also a British spelling) is very typical in the U.K. and Commonwealth nations.
         Many people think councilman, councilwoman, and council member are a mouthful!  I suspect the reporter is just trying to find something easy and short.
         -- Robert Hickey

How to Write a Couple's Name On a Donor List
When the One of them Has a Special Title?

     I am President of our Friends of the Library and are engraving some bricks for a new sidewalk path being installed.  We are including our Council Members and their wives, but are unsure the proper way of titling them.   We are given 3 rows of 16 characters or spaces each.  Would you please provide us some guidance?  Would we list them as:
            Council Member Drexel and Kate Douglas
            Council Member Drexel & Kate Douglas
            Council Member Pam and Adam Steel
            Council Member Pam & Adam Steel

     Or some other variation? 
            -- Jack Scott

Dear Mr. Scott,
    Hummmm. The options you suggest are awkward because you are combining official and social forms of address ... including an official's elected office ... with .... the couple's names in an social way.
    Members of city councils are typically addressed on an envelope or in the letter by whatever honorific they are entitled to (Mr./Ms./Dr./etc.), and identified as a member of a council: Mr. Drexel Douglas, Member, Hudson County Council
You would never see Senator Evan and Susan Bayh in Washington, DC. Formally when someone holds an office they get their name as a complete unit, not combined with someone else's name.
     If you are limited for space and must include spouses, include the names and leave off the Council Member.  Bricks are permanent, membership on the city council is fleeting. A better option would be simply:
  Pam & Adam Steel
         -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence When Addressing
A City Council Meeting?

    As president of a non-profit organization, I'm going to be making a presentation before my local city council requesting funding for a community service project. The seven member council sits on a raised platform at the front of the council chamber. The mayor and clerk-treasurer attend the meetings and are seated at a table to the right of the council members at floor level. The council president is the presiding official. When I get up to address the council, what should be my salutation? Should it be to all members of the council? Or should it be just to the council president? And should it include reference to the mayor and clerk-treasurer whose roles are mainly to comment and advise.  We are a small Hoosier town and I don't want to sound too highfalutin in my opening.
     Is Dear Members of City Council acceptable instead of Honorable Members of City Council?
     I would really like to show honor, respect and decorum in the way I conduct myself. Thanks for taking the time to read and answer this email.

         -- Bob In Ohio

Dear BIO.:
    If your oral comments are to all of present ... let's start with how to address each person and then work on their order.
    For the president and members of the city council
        President (surname)
        Members of the the City Council

    The Honorable always precedes a full name ... never an office: So a person is honorable, not an office.
    I am not completely clear whether the mayor & clerk/treasurer are part of "the official team" at the board meeting. But if included the mayor would be:
        Mr. Mayor or Mayor (surname)
    Normally clerks and treasurers are NOT most formally addressed as "Clerk (surname)" or "Treasurer (surname)."  So he or she would be:
        Mr./Ms. (surname)
    There is no need to mention his/her office: in this context everyone will know who he/she is.
    Now, about the order to mention them: I would want to know MORE to be certain who had the highest precedence at this event. But... based on the officials you mention... here is where I would start:
    1. A mayor in his own city
        (Was elected by all voters)
    2. A President of the council as presiding official at his own event
        (Represents all voters, and probably would succeed the mayor if they mayor died or stepped down ... like The Speaker of the House of Representatives succeeds the Vice President if both the VP and the President die or step down...)
    3. The clerk/treasurer if he/she was elected in a general election?
        (Was elected by all voters)
    4. The members of the council
        (Were elected by only their district's voters)
    That would result in the following:
       Mayor (surname), President (surname), Mr./Ms. (surname), and members of the city council.
    But it could be that the Mayor and Clerk/Treasurer are not "officially attending" but simply get excellent seats … in which case they would not be addressed. Then your opening would be:
       President (surname) and members of the city council.
    You should ask someone … perhaps the City Council's secretary -- before the meeting -- which is better.
          -- Robert Hickey

Not Finding Your Question Answered?
Below are other topics covered in my blog and at right is a list of officials, Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     After hunting around a bit, if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – with your name and any personal specifics changed.
      -- Robert Hickey

Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
Sequence Post-Nominal Abbreviations: Sr., Jr., etc.    
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services
       Addressing Active Duty Personnel              
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
Introductions, Names in
Invitations: Names on
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 27 October 2016

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Photo: Marc Goodman.

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