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Township Day is March 13: Annual levies set, board elections also held for most townships in Becker County

Township residents, mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 13: That's the day when all 1,781 townships across Minnesota — including 37 in Becker County — are required to hold their annual town meetings.

"It's the day when townships set their annual levy for road and bridge (construction), fire contracts and other township maintenance costs," says Roger Winter, who currently chairs the Becker County Township Association. "Most townships also have their board elections on that day (though there are a handful in Becker County that hold them in November)."

Each township board, which consists of at least three elected supervisors, also elects board officers at the meeting, including a chairman, clerk and treasurer, he added.

"The town clerk is the most important part of township government," Winter said. "They have to do all the record keeping and audit reports, and work with the county on annual elections (both the township elections in March and the general elections in November)."

Speaking of elections, Winter said, "townships are always looking for election judges, both for the primaries in August, and the general election in November.

"Most townships do have voting machines now," he added, noting that these are provided by Becker County. "There are 11 townships that do mail-in ballots only, however. Those ballots are mailed out (to registered township residents) about 30 days in advance of the election."

Once residents have cast their mail-in ballots, they should mail them back to the county courthouse in Detroit Lakes for tallying, Winter said. (Mail-in ballots are available for all Becker County residents in advance of an election, he added, regardless of whether they have a designated polling place in their city or township.)

"Height of Land and Sugar Bush are the two biggest townships (in terms of geographic size)," Winter said. "Lake Eunice has the largest annual budget, at close to $500,000, while Pine Point has the smallest, at about $45,000. The rest fall somewhere in between."

Becker County township governance began in 1870s

Town boards have been around since the early days of the United States of America, Winter said, noting that there are 37 townships in Becker County, though not all of them were established at the same time.

The oldest townships in Becker County are Audubon, Detroit, Hamden, Lake Eunice, Lake Park and Richwood, which were all established in 1871 — though Audubon Township was first named Windom, then changed to Colfax and Oak Lake before residents finally settled on Audubon as its official designation in 1872. Lake Park Township was also originally designated as Liberty, and Hamden as Belmont Township.

Burlington, Cormorant, Cuba and Lake View townships were all established in 1872. Erie Township was incorporated on July 23, 1878, and two townships, Atlanta and Walworth, were established in early 1879, though they were originally designated as part of Martin Township, before being split in two and eventually renamed.

Carsonville Township was incorporated in 1881, while Height of Land, Green Valley and Wolf Lake townships were all established in 1886 — though the latter two were originally part of Hope Township before being split, then renamed.

Runeberg and Silverleaf (originally designated as Forest Township and later, Woodland before being changed to Silverleaf in 1888) were both established in 1887. Evergreen Township came along one year later, in 1888, while both Holmesville and Spruce Grove townships were established in 1889.

Osage Township became incorporated in 1891 and Toad Lake one year later, in 1892. Shell Lake Township was first established in 1897 and Two Inlets Township in 1898, while the rest were established after the turn of the century, as follows:

• Callaway Township: 1906

• Eagle View Township: 1987

• Forest Township: 1979

• Maple Grove Township: 1920

• PIne Point Township: 1906

• Riceville Township: 1911

• Round Lake Township: 1921

• Savannah Township: 1901

• Spring Creek Township: 1911

• Sugar Bush Township: 1919

• White Earth Township: 1906

In the mid-1970s, the Becker County Association of Township Officers was formed, with Charles Rew serving as the first chairman, Winter said.

"He served for about 10 years, and then Carolyn Engebretson chaired it for a couple of years before I took over," he added.

Winter served as chair of the township association for about 15 years before being elected as a Becker County commissioner, which forced him to step down.

"Justin Klemetson took over from me when I was elected to the county board," Winter said, and served in that capacity until Winter was re-elected as chair six years ago (he served one four-year term on the county board).

The township association also has a legislative representative, Winter said, noting that he served in that capacity for several years, along with Ike Fischer and Claudia Welte, who is the current legislative rep.

The township association meets twice a year, Winter said, with the annual meeting taking place in April, and the business meeting in October.

"Our county officials are all invited to speak at those meetings," Winter said. "When I was on the county board, I worked to forge a good relationship with the townships, and I think it's been going well ever since."

For more information on where and when your local township annual meeting will take place, please contact your local township clerk (a list of township officials is available on the Becker County Auditor's web page at www.co.becker.mn.us (click on the link for "Departments" and follow the prompts from there).

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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