It could well be argued that townships, even more than cities or counties, are at the heart of local, grassroots politics. In our part of the world, more of us live in townships than in cities. And next week is our time to shine.
While larger political bodies often get more notice, it is the townships that build and maintain our many rural roads, issue building permits, provide fire protection for its residents, and carry on the business of local government.
Township elections will take place Tuesday, March 9. You can see individual notices on page 10, for times and locations.
Township annual meetings will be held after the polls close at 8 p.m. If you life within any of the many townships that make up this great land, it is both your right and duty to vote Tuesday and to attend your annual meeting.
Township meetings are always open to the public, but it is at township annual meetings that a number of tasks are discussed and decided upon for the coming year. These include taxes (setting the levy to be paid by residents), setting priorities for road projects and other spending, and enforcing policies such as weed spraying, mowing right-of-way, and dustguarding.
Township supervisors are elected to represent us, the township residents. But they need our input on the many decisions they make, and the annual meeting is the time and place to provide that input.
Annual meetings also are a time to review what has been done in the past year. Again, this is a valuable opportunity for supervisors to hear from their constituents.
If I may make another plug here for completing 2010 Census forms, this is another important duty we must take seriously this month.
Maine Prairie candidates
Two men are running for a single supervisor position open in Maine Prairie: incumbent Jim Unterberger, and Ron Kuechle. What follows are their comments about the office and the township.
Jim Unterberger has been a township supervisor since 1998 and, in his words, he's never missed a meeting. "You lose a lot if you miss a meeting," he said.
Jim is married to Cindy, and they have three grown children. The Unterbergers moved to Maine Prairie in 1981. Jim is retired from construction work, and he drives school bus for Hendricks Bus in Kimball.
Jim is running for re-election because "my job isn't done," he said. "There's lots left to do." He added that he looks forward to contributing "three more of my best years" to the township.
Issues he feels are important include the Comprehensive Growth Plan, which should be completed by May 1, and roads.
The Comp Plan, he said, is a look into the future, so that future supervisors have something to guide them. The plan will outline where residential growth will be, and where agriculture and forest are to be preserved.
Ron Kuechle is running for supervisor because he's interested in local government and, now that he's semi-retired, he has the time to do it. "I look forward to the challenge," he said. He also feels a general responsibility to be a part of the solution.
Ron is married to Barbara, and they have five grown children. He is a life-long Maine Prairie resident. He has retired from dairy on his Watkins farm, but still farms the land. Ron serves on the St. Anne's Parish Council, and he is chairman of the board of directors of Stearns County Farm Bureau.
Road maintenance and upkeep are a major issue that Ron feels the township faces. "A rural economy depends on roads to market crops and milk," he said. Law enforcement will be an issue, he believes, with impending cutbacks in the county and state. He'd like taxes on farm land to be lower, but acknowledges that we can't do much about tax rates.