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Commissioner is in principle the title given to a member of a commission or to an individual who has been given a commission (official charge or authority to do something, the noun's second meaning).

In practice, the title of commissioner has evolved to include a variety of senior officials, often sitting on a specific commission. In particular, commissioner frequently refers to senior police or government officials. A High Commissioner is equivalent to an ambassador, originally between the United Kingdom and the Dominions sharing the British Monarch as head of state and now between all Commonwealth states whether Commonwealth Realms, Commonwealth Republics or Commonwealth states having their own monarchs. The title is also sometimes given to senior officials in the private sector, for instance many North American sports leagues.

Domestic public officialEdit

A Commissioner within a modern state generally holds his office by virtue of a commission from the head of state or a council of elected representatives (or appointed by non-elected officials in the case of dictatorships).

Imperial ChinaEdit

Senior Public Servants, Commissioners and other high ranking bureaucrats referred to collectively as Mandarins.

Canadian territoriesEdit

Commissioners are the formal head of the territories in Canada (i.e. those areas under the formal jurisdiction of the federal government and without separate constitutional status of a province). Unlike the Governor General or a Lieutenant Governor, who are representative of the Queen of Canada, Commissioners are not vice-regal representatives, although they perform similar duties including; reading the Speech from the Throne at the opening of the territorial Legislature. They are appointed by the federal government as delegates of cabinet. Under federal statutes[1][2][3] governing the territories, Commissioners act in accordance with written instructions from cabinet or the minister responsible (currently the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development). While commissioners formally had direct day-to-day role in administration and government and chaired the Executive Council, today they are under instruction to act more like provincial Lieutenant-Governors, as territorial assemblies have taken on more responsibility.

Commissioners are eligible to present a Vice-Regal Commendation to any Canadian Forces Members as any Lieutenant-Governors for long-term or outstanding service to the Office of a Lieutenant-Governor or Commissioner.[4]

Current Canadian commissioners Edit

Symbol of Office Territory Current commissioner Commissioner since Website
80px Northwest Territories The Honourable George Tuccaro May 28, 2010 Website
80px Nunavut The Honourable Edna Elias May 21, 2010 Website
File:Commissioner crest.jpg Yukon The Honourable Doug Phillips December 1, 2010 Website

PoliceEdit

In police services in the Commonwealth and USA, the title of commissioner typically designates the head of an entire police force (e.g., Australian Federal Police, the New South Wales Police Force, New York City Police Department, St. Louis Police Department , Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, the London Metropolitan Police or the California Highway Patrol). In some countries, such as in many Latin American countries and in France and in Italy, the title of commissioner refers to the head of a single police station.

ScotlandEdit

Prior to the Acts of Union 1707, an elected member of the Estates (parliament) of Scotland held the office of Commissioner, representing a constituency (the equivalent of a Member of Parliament in the contemporaneous Parliament of England). There were Burgh Commissioners and Shire or Stewartry Commissioners.

Isle of ManEdit

In the local government system of the Isle of Man, a Commissioner is an elected representative equivalent to a Councillor. All town, village, district and parish local government bodies consist of commissioners, with the exception of Douglas, which has a council and councillors.

Soviet UnionEdit

From the October Revolution in 1917 until the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991, the Soviet government as well as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its predecessors used commissioner (in Russian комиссар or commissar) as a term for multiple positions. From 1917 until 1946 ministers of government were called people's commissars (and ministries were called "people's commissariats"). In workplaces a commissar was appointed to assure that communist political doctrine was observed. In military units such commissars were also called the политрук (politruk, meaning "political director") or замполит (zampolit, or deputy commander for political affairs). By contrast, a военный комиссар (voyennyy komissar), or military commissar, was merely a local military official in charge of supervising the induction of military draftees.

United StatesEdit

In many U.S. states, the legislative and executive decision-making bodies of counties are called the board of commissioners or county commission. In Minnesota, Alaska, New York and Tennessee, the heads of statewide cabinet-level departments are called "commissioners". In California, commissioners are subordinate judicial officers.

Historically, the U.S. government appointed special commissioners for a variety of tasks. For example, the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1862 to 1889 was a commissioner, not a Cabinet secretary.[5]

The Salvation ArmyEdit

In The Salvation Army the rank of Commissioner is the second-highest attainable rank and the highest rank by appointment,[6] as the rank of General is by election. It is one of the original ranks of the Army and has been in use since 1880, the first Commissioner was George Scott Railton.

ScoutingEdit

Within the Scout Movement, a Commissioner is a senior adult leader who is responsible for the management of an aspect of Scouting and/or the leadership of other adults, as opposed to adult leaders who lead youth members.

International public and colonial contextEdit

British and Commonwealth overseas possessionsEdit

The title of Commissioner, as such, was used by the (gubernatorial) chief British official in:

CanadaEdit

Canada calls its government officials in charge of export promotion "trade commissioners". There are 150 offices of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in Canada and abroad, and they "assist with export advice and guidance to help [Canadians] achieve [their] international business goals." The website devoted to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service uses the Internet domain www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca.[7]

European UnionEdit

The European Commissioners are the members of the European Commission, the highest executive organ of the European Union, which is the closest EU equivalent to a government. Each Commissioner is assigned a portfolio, but they make most important decisions collegially, often subject to approval by the European Parliament and/or the Council of the European Union.

French coloniesEdit

The French equivalent, Commissaire, was used for various officials employed at different levels of the colonial administration in several French-ruled countries.

Russian EmpireEdit

After on 17 April 1914 Tannu Tuva (ethnically Mongolian) was declared a Russian 'protected' area (Uryanhay [Urjanhaj] kray), two subsequent Russian Commissioners for the Affairs of Urjanhai Kray (1914 - 1915 A.P. Cererin (Tsererin) and 1915 - 1917 Yu.V. Grigoryev) were appointed, alongside the last native tribal Paramount chief (title Ambyn-noyon), followed by a single Commissar of the Provisional Government (October 1917 - 16 March 1918 Aleksey Aleksandrovich Turchaninov) until czarist rule collapsed for good, giving way to the Soviet regime

United Nations administrationEdit

A UN Commissioner appointed in 1949 supervised the transition of the UN Trust territory of Libya (a former Italian colony; actually Tripolitania and Cyrenaica each were under a British Administrator, in 1949 restyled Resident, Fezzan under a French Military Governor, in 1950 also restyled Résident) to independence as a united monarchy in 1951.

United StatesEdit

From the mid-19th century until 1939, two U.S. Government cabinet departments used the title "commissioner" for officials posted abroad who did not enjoy diplomatic status. U.S. federal agencies have not titled officials posted abroad as commissioners since 1939.

U.S. Department of AgricultureEdit

During the 19th century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began sending employees, called "agricultural commissioners", abroad to investigate foreign agriculture. These appointments were of a roving nature, as the officials were not assigned to a particular country or city. In 1919 USDA posted to London an agricultural commissioner without diplomatic status, Edward Foley, to report on British agriculture. Additional commissioners were posted through the 1920s to Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Shanghai. The title began to be phased out in 1930 with passage of the Foreign Agricultural Service Act, which granted USDA authority to use the diplomatic title "attaché". The last USDA employee to bear the title "agricultural commissioner" was Owen Dawson, agricultural commissioner at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, who received diplomatic status and the title agricultural attaché in 1939 when USDA's overseas officers were transferred to the Department of State.[8][9][10][11]

Noted American author Mark Twain recounted meeting one of the 19th-century roving agricultural commissioners in Innocents Abroad:

I was proud to observe that among our excursionists were three ministers of the gospel, eight doctors, sixteen or eighteen ladies, several military and naval chieftains with sounding titles, an ample crop of "Professors" of various kinds, and a gentleman who had "COMMISSIONER OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO EUROPE, ASIA, AND AFRICA" thundering after his name in one awful blast! I had carefully prepared myself to take rather a back seat in that ship because of the uncommonly select material that would alone be permitted to pass through the camel's eye of that committee on credentials; I had schooled myself to expect an imposing array of military and naval heroes and to have to set that back seat still further back in consequence of it maybe; but I state frankly that I was all unprepared for this crusher.

I fell under that titular avalanche a torn and blighted thing. I said that if that potentate must go over in our ship, why, I supposed he must -- but that to my thinking, when the United States considered it necessary to send a dignitary of that tonnage across the ocean, it would be in better taste, and safer, to take him apart and cart him over in sections in several ships.

Ah, if I had only known then that he was only a common mortal, and that his mission had nothing more overpowering about it than the collecting of seeds and uncommon yams and extraordinary cabbages and peculiar bullfrogs for that poor, useless, innocent, mildewed old fossil the Smithsonian Institute, I would have felt so much relieved.[12]

U.S. Department of CommerceEdit

Following unification of the U.S. Foreign Service under the Rogers Act in 1924, overseas trade promotion shifted from consuls of the United States to "trade commissioners" employed by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Most but not all trade commissioners were retitled commercial attachés upon creation of the Foreign Commerce Service (viz.) in 1927. The title "trade commissioner" went out of use in the United States when Commerce's overseas officials were transferred to the Department of State and all three U.S. foreign services (of the Departments of State, Agriculture and Commerce) were merged in 1939 under Reorganization Plan No. II.[5][13]

SportsEdit

In many North American sports leagues, including nearly all professional leagues, the commissioner is the highest executive position. The exact powers of the commissioner depend on the constitution and/or rules of the league. Commissioners are elected by the owners of the league's clubs, and handle matters such as discipline, arbitration of disputes between the clubs, etc.

The title was first used in 1920, when Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed Commissioner of Baseball in the aftermath of the Black Sox Scandal. Landis was titled "Commissioner" partly to distinguish his office from that of the "President" of the American and National Leagues. Landis' title derived from the National Commission, the ruling body for baseball established in 1903, which were largely autonomous organizations at the time. Eager to restore public confidence in their sport's integrity, baseball owners gave Landis absolute power and a lifetime contract, which permitted the former judge to assume more power over the sport than a commissioner in any sport has held since.[citation needed]

The other major professional sports leagues of North America followed suit, replacing their positions of league president with that of commissioner. The National Football League appointed its first commissioner in 1941, the National Basketball Association in 1967, and the National Hockey League in 1993. However, the commissioners' powers and responsibilities in these leagues are not substantially different from those of the presidents that preceded them. Although baseball's subsequent commissioners have not had the absolute power that Landis did, current Commissioner Bud Selig has succeeded in centralizing authority over Major League Baseball in the commissioner's office, relegating the position of league president to an honorary title and giving baseball's commissioner competencies similar to those of his colleagues in the other major sports.[citation needed]

Many minor professional and amateur leagues throughout the United States and Canada have also appointed commissioners. The title has not caught on outside North America. In addition to Selig, the other current commissioners of the North American major professional leagues are Roger Goodell in the NFL, David Stern in the NBA, Gary Bettman in the NHL, and Don Garber in MLS.

Compound titlesEdit

In many cases the term Commissioner is part of a more specific title, including English renditions of such titles in other languages. Examples (in some cases there are further compounds) include:

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/N-27/252179.html
  2. http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/Y-2.01/265655.html
  3. http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/N-28.6/index.html
  4. Vice-Regal Commendation
  5. 5.0 5.1 Official Register of the United States Government. Washington: USGPO. issues of 1883, 1885, 1889, 1891, 1893, 1899, 1901, 1903, 1905, 1907, 1925-1959. http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=Official%20Register%20of%20the%20United%20States.
  6. http://salvos.org.au/about-us/overview/our-terminology.php Info on TSA ranks and terminology
  7. "Doing Business Abroad: The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service". http://www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/eng/trade-offices.jsp. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  8. Clem, Alan L. (July 1960). The U.S. Agricultural Attaché, His History and His Work, FAS M-91. Washington: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. http://www.archive.org/details/TheAgriculturalAttacheHisHistoryAndWork.
  9. Mustard, Allan (2003). A study of management doctrines and leadership philosophies of selected organizations with international missions. Arlington, Virginia: Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. pp. vi, 85 leaves : col. ill. ; 28 cm.. http://agricola.nal.usda.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?Search%5FArg=Mustard%2C%20Allan&SL=None&Search%5FCode=NAME%5F&CNT=25&PID=ciU3nI8jeMbNUPhiwSRB_mmU60oCQ&BROWSE=1&HC=1&SID=1.
  10. U.S. Department of Agriculture (issues of 1883-1885). Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture. Washington: USGPO. http://www.nal.usda.gov.
  11. U.S. Department of Agriculture (issues of 1893, 1903, 1905, 1920, 1922, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1952, 1953, 1954). Report of the Secretary of Agriculture. Washington: USGPO. http://www.nal.usda.gov.
  12. "Twain, Mark, 1835-1910. Innocents Abroad, Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library". http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=TwaInno.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=all.
  13. U.S. Department of State. Biographic Register. Washington: USGPO. http://lccn.loc.gov/09022072.
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