governor, chief executive of a dependent or component unit in a political system. In the United States, a governor is the chief executive of each state and is elected by the people of the state. In the British, French, and Dutch empires a governor was traditionally appointed to rule over each of the colonies. Governors in the United States originally lacked much power. They were often subordinate to the state legislatures and had little control over administrative agencies. However, political reforms in the early 20th cent. shifted power from the legislative to the executive branches of state governments, and today governors are among the most powerful political figures in the United States. At the National Governors Conference, developed from a meeting called (1908) by President Theodore Roosevelt, the nation's governors meet annually to discuss common political and governmental problems.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.