The municipality is an administrative entity defined by geographical borders, consisting of Umeå and a large area around it. The present municipality consists of many former local government units joined together in a series of municipal reforms carried out between 1952 and 1974.
A 65-member municipal assembly (kommunfullmäktige) is elected by proportional representation for a four-year term. The assembly appoints the 9-member executive committee (kommunstyrelsen) and the 7 governing commissioners. The executive committee and the commissioners are headed by the chairman (kommunstyrelsens ordförande), since 1996 Social Democrat Lennart Holmlund (b. 1946). Since the 2010 municipal election the municipality is headed by a Social Democratic-Left Party coalition a single seat short of absolute majority. Of the eight parties represented in the Riksdag since 2010, all but the Sweden Democrats are found in the assembly, as well as the breakaway Socialist Justice Party headed by former Social Democrat Jan Hägglund (holding its only seat), renamed the Workers' Party in 2011.