Fernley was established as a township in the 1930's with the Lyon County Board of Commissioners as the governing body for Fernley. In 1985, the citizens installed a self-governing town board separate from the Lyon County Board of Commissioners. Effective July 1, 2001, Fernley incorporated as a city and assumed additional functions. The City was formed as a general law City as allowed under Nevada state law, Nevada Revised Statutes: Chapter 266.
All matters of development and business go before either the Fernley City Council or the Fernley Planning Commission. The North Lyon County Fire Protection District provides fire protection and emergency medical services. The County provides a Sheriff Substation and the County Sheriff provides law enforcement within the City under an interlocal agreement between Lyon County and the City of Fernley.
In October 2002, the City established separate municipal court operations. The County also provides certain services within Fernley such as the operation of the: