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Our Opinion: Don’t skip township meetings

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opinion Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Township annual meetings will be held March 11 this year, and many townships also have their annual election of officers that day.

In Minnesota, if you don’t live in an incorporated city, you live in a township … It’s important to vote and have a say in your leadership.

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Like cities, each township has a unique character.

There are farm-based townships like Walworth, with a population: of about 100 people,  in northwestern Becker County.

There are lake- and forest-based townships, like Round Lake, in northern Becker County, population about 200, and Height of Land Township, population about 700.

There are farm-based townships in eastern Becker county like Runeberg, population about 500.

Then there are the big townships close to Detroit Lakes, like Detroit Township, population over 2,000, and Lakeview Township, population about 1,700.

Further west, there are rural lake-dominated townships like Cormorant, population over 1,000, and Lake Eunice, population over 1,500.

Their governing structure is the same, but some of the issues they face are quite different — from water quality to gravel mining to farming to logging. Or just being a large township on the edge of a mid-sized  regional center like Detroit Lakes.

 Of course, some issues are common to all townships, like snowplowing and road maintenance.

The role of all townships, however, is continually evolving.  While many townships remain rural agricultural centers, others have a variety of  residential, light commercial, and industrial development.

Townships are the original grassroots government in our representative democracy: And they go way back, established as part of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which created the State of Minnesota, with roots even further back in Europe.

Now, of course, township refers to organized but unincorporated communities governed by a local board of supervisors and created to provide services to their residents. There are 1,790 townships across Minnesota, 37 in Becker County.

A town board of supervisors, elected to staggered three-year terms on an annual basis, make up the governing body for most townships.  The annual elections are held on the second Tuesday of March each year in coordination with the township’s annual meeting.

The annual meeting is what really sets townships apart from other forms of local government.

At this meeting, township residents have a direct voice in how the township will be run.  They do this by voting on a variety of matters on which the town board must receive elector approval, and most importantly, by directly voting on and approving the township’s tax levy for the next year.  This means that, with very limited exception, the town board can only spend that which has been authorized by the voters.

Some townships now hold their elections in November, but they must still conduct the annual meeting in March. If you live in a township, find time to get there.

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