Oconee County was created from the southwestern part of Clarke County in 1875 by the Georgia General Assembly. The new county was created to satisfy southwestern Clarke County residents' demand for their own county after the county seat was moved from Watkinsville to Athens by the General Assembly in 1872. It is named for the river flowing along part of its eastern border.
The county was ranked as the third-best rural county to live in by Progressive Farmer magazine in 2006.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 186 square miles (480 km2), of which 184 square miles (480 km2) is land and 2.1 square miles (5.4 km2) (1.1%) is water. The entirety of Oconee County is located in the Upper Oconee River sub-basin of the Altamaha River basin.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 32,808 people, 11,622 households, and 9,346 families residing in the county. The population density was 178.0 inhabitants per square mile (68.7/km2). There were 12,383 housing units at an average density of 67.2 per square mile (25.9/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 88.4% white, 5.0% black or African American, 3.1% Asian, 0.1% American Indian, 2.0% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 4.4% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 19.9% were English, 14.7% were American, 13.3% were Irish, and 12.2% were German.
Of the 11,622 households, 43.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 67.4% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 19.6% were non-families, and 16.3% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.81 and the average family size was 3.16. The median age was 39.1 years.
The median income for a household in the county was $74,352 and the median income for a family was $85,371. Males had a median income of $57,303 versus $39,375 for females. The per capita income for the county was $34,271. About 6.3% of families and 7.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.1% of those under age 18 and 8.4% of those age 65 or over.
In 2012, the Wisconsin Population Health Institute ranked Oconee County as one of the top 3 healthiest counties in Georgia. The study ranked the county second in the state in "Overall Health Factors" and third in "Overall Health Outcomes."
Oconee County is governed by a four-member Board of Commissioners, which holds legislative power. The Board is led by a separately-elected Chairman, who holds executive power. The Board is vested with budget and taxing authority, ordinance making authority, and control of county property, roads and facilities. The chairman and all members of the board are elected from at-large districts (called "posts") to staggered terms of four years.
The Chairman of the Board is the county's Chief Executive Officer who, in consultation with the Commissioners, appoints officers and staff as needed to administer the responsibilities of the Board.
The judicial branch of government is administered through the Georgia court system as a part of the 10th Judicial District, Western Circuit.
Primary law enforcement services in the portion of the county outside the City of Watkinsville are provided by the Sheriff's office. (Law enforcement within the Watkinsville City Limits is the jurisdiction of the Watkinsville Police Department.) The office of Sheriff is an elected position; since 1992, the office has been held by Scott Berry. Berry is also the current President of the Georgia Sheriff's Association.
The Oconee County School District provides education for grades pre-school to twelve and consists of six elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. The district has 361 full-time teachers and over 5,615 students.
There are currently three private schools located in the county. They are:
The University of North Georgia maintains a satellite campus near Watkinsville. It was a Gainesville State College campus until the 2012 merger of Gainesville State College with North Georgia College and State University.