Archive for Sunday, October 27, 1996


October 27, 1996


Township elections don't trigger flashy campaigns but they are important to rural residents who want government close by.

It's a thankless job but someone has to run Douglas County's nine townships.

On Election Day, rural voters will elect their township trustee and treasurer either by choosing an official candidate or writing in the name of someone else. The three-member township board is rounded out by a clerk, whose office will be on the ballot in 1998.

What concerns supporters of the township system, which provides rural road maintenance and fire protection, is that interest in the township offices is low.

``It's not a job that carries much prestige,'' said Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug. ``It's essentially a thankless job and in most cases it's a job that doesn't really pay anything.''

Only four of the 18 races to be decided Nov. 5 are contested. In races for three offices, no candidates met the filing deadline to be listed on the ballot. Those races are for trustee and treasurer in Grant Township and for Kanwaka Township treasurer.

If those positions aren't filled by write-in ballots, the Douglas County Commission will appoint township residents to the posts.

Despite weak interest in township office, the township system has plenty of defenders from people who see it as perhaps the purest example of grass-roots government and don't want its functions absorbed by the county.

``If you're having a problem, the person you talk to is your neighbor,'' Weonaug said.

``There's a lot more one-on-one with the people,'' said David Wulfkuhle, who is running for Kanwaka Township trustee.

``I think the township needs to stay in place so that you've got local people making local decisions,'' said Dwane Schaake, a candidate for Wakarusa Township trustee.

The job certainly has its headaches, veteran officials say. Neighbors don't hesitate to call with complaints about roads and township officials have limited resources to respond. Seven of the townships have all-volunteer fire departments.

There's no uniform pay scale for township officials. For example, in Kanwaka Township, officers receive $50 per meeting, while Grant Township officials are paid $170 every quarter. In Wakarusa Township compensation varies but runs between $200 and $300 a month.

The fact that township officials are so accessible to their constituents and must squeeze their official duties in between farming and other responsibilities means the job is an on-call, 24-hour position. The compensation they receive doesn't reflect the time township officials put into the position.

``This really is a volunteer effort even if you're being paid $200 a month,'' said Steve Sublett, Wakarusa Township clerk. ``Nobody's impressed by that kind of money anymore.''

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