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Enterprise Editorial: Townships represent grassroots government

Township annual meetings will be held Tuesday, March 14 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.

Like cities, each township has a unique character.

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.

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

Then there's things like setting the preliminary tax levy and all important gopher feet bounty. The role of all townships 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.

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. Some townships now hold their elections in November, but they must still conduct the annual meeting in March.

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.

If you live in a township, find time to get there.