How much do you know about townships?


Eighteen of Douglas County's 20 townships are starting to gear up for elections on Tuesday, March 13.

Two townships, Brandon and Miltona, will hold their elections in the fall.

Most townships in Douglas County will elect two positions — clerk and supervisor. Clerk positions in five townships — Alexandria, Evansville, Ida, LaGrand and Urness — are appointed so they will not be on the ballot.

The filing period to run for township office opened Jan. 2 and will close at 5 p.m. Jan. 16.

There are 1,781 townships in Minnesota. How much do you know about them?

Brush up with this information provided by the Minnesota Association of Townships.

What is a township?

In the late 1700s, Congress ordered a survey that divided the territory that became Minnesota into 36 square-mile tracts of land called townships. When Minnesota became a state, its legislature created a process for those living within these "congressional townships" to organize themselves into a form of local government called town government in which a town board governs, but residents have direct input through the annual township meeting.

What is a town board?

A town board is an elected body chosen to conduct the affairs of the town. In a traditional township, three supervisors comprise the town board and are supported by a clerk and a treasurer. Supervisors serve three-year terms, while clerks and treasurers serve two-year terms (in March elections).

If the town has a November election, supervisors have either a four or six-year term while the clerk and treasurer hold four-year terms. The powers and duties of towns and town officers are set out in state statute. There are optional forms of town government provided for in statute that allow the town voters to change the basic town board structure by appointing the clerk and/or treasurer, combining the clerk and treasurer positions, adopting a five-member board of supervisors, choosing November elections, or use of mail-in ballots (provided your county approves).

How do townships spend their revenue?

The state auditor's report shows that road and bridge expenditures are by the far the largest expense for townships, followed by general government expenses, fire protection services, debt payments, water and wastewater services, public safety, and other public expenditures.

What are the duties of a town supervisor?

By law, supervisors "have charge of all town affairs not committed to other officers by law." Town supervisors are charged with the duty to make decisions on behalf of the town and have the responsibility to see that the town fulfills its duties to the state and to town residents. Common duties include awarding contracts, authorizing township expenditures, and adopting ordinances.

What are the duties of a town clerk?

Town clerk performs a variety of duties for the township, including: keeping meeting minutes, providing notice of meetings, filing and preserving the town's records, and serving as the chief election officer for the town.

What are the duties of a town treasurer?

Town treasurers are mostly responsible for properly handling and accounting for the town's funds. Treasurers keep a register of all demands for payment made to the town and of all checks the town issues.

Who can run for town office?

To be eligible to run for town office you must be: (1) an eligible voter; (2) filed as a candidate for only one position at the same election; (3) be at least 21 years old at the time of taking office; and (4) be a resident of the town for at least 30 days before the election.

Are supervisors the only decision makers in township government?

While supervisors are the only ones with an official vote on most final decisions, the residents play an important role in the decision making process through the annual meeting. Townships must also comply with state mandates. On a few issues, the township can be ordered to do things by the county. Town zoning must also be consistent with or more restrictive than county regulations.