Local government came to the Macleay Valley in 1885 with the constitution of the Kempsey Borough Council by Mayor, Alderman P.C. Hill and Town Clerk, Mr H.P. Macklin. The remainder of the valley was introduced to municipal administration in 1907 with the formation of the Macleay Shire Council. The original President was Councillor C.A. Hill and the Chief Administrative Officer was Shire Clerk, Mr N. Parker.
The Macleay River County Council was given powers concerning electricity supply and aviation in 1947. Councillor E.R. Mackay was elected first Chairman of the County Council and Mr J.C. Salter transferred from the Municipal Council as County Clerk. In 1954 the Council entered the field of flood mitigation.
In 1975 the Kempsey Municipal Council and the Macleay Shire Council agreed to amalgamate their areas, which meant that the Macleay River County Council would also be abolished, and its activities would be transferred to the newly formed Council.
As result, the Kempsey Shire Council was incorporated from 1 October 1975. Councillor Steuart McIntyre served as Mayor for the first 18 years of the new Council. Mr Stan Hayes transferred from the County Council to be the first Shire Clerk.