The city is named after Jean Baptiste de Girardot, who established a trading post in the area around 1733. Baptiste de Girardot was a French soldier stationed in the French colony of La Louisiane. The "cape" in the city's name refers to a large rock overlooking the Mississippi River; "Cape Rock" was later destroyed by railroad construction, but the area remains a memorial park.
Cape Girardeau utilizes a Council-Manager form of government, with an elected City Council consisting of six members. The Cape Girardeau Police Department consists of 75 sworn police officers in patrol, detective, and special operations divisions, among others. The Cape Girardeau Fire Department consists of a dedicated team of 66 people at four fire stations located throughout the city.
The water, sewer, trash and recycling systems are municipally-owned and run by the Public Works Department. Electricity and gas in the city are supplied by Ameren Missouri. Cape Girardeau has 23 city parks and a 4.42 mile walking/biking trail, in addition to many other recreational activities and amenities.