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In medieval Germany, the Schultheiß (Middle High German schultheize, from Old High German sculdheizo; Latinised as scultetus or sculteus; in Switzerland: Schultheiss, also: Schultheis, Schulte or Schulze; in Italian the two offices scoltetto and sculdascio, Medieval Latin sculdasius and Polish sołtys) was the head of a municipality (akin to today's office of mayor), a Vogt or an executive official of the ruler.
As official (villicus) it was his duty to order his assigned village or county (villicatio) to pay the taxes and perform the services due to the ruler. The name originates from this function: Schuld ‘debt’ + heißen ‘to order’.
Later, the title was also used for the head of a town (Stadtschultheiß) or village (Schulze).
Until as recently as 2007, Schultheiss was the title of the president of the government of the Canton of Lucerne, Switzerland.
Schultheiß is also the basis for one of the most common German surnames, existing in many variations such as Schulz, Schultz, Scholz, Schulze, Schulte, Schultheis, Schulthess, Schultes, Scholtes, Shults, Shultis (an Anglicized version in the USA) corresponding to the local variants of the pronunciation of the office. Another Anglicization is Shouldice. Schultheisz, Sultész and Soltész appear to be Hungarian spellings of the surname.
In Poland, sołtys (borrowed from Schultheiß) is the name given to the elected head of a rural subdivision (usually a village, or part of a large village) known as a sołectwo.