Township government officials help govern rural areas in a county but many people do not know how they do their jobs.
Township trustees and clerks serve four-year terms of office and their terms start on Jan. 1 following a general election; clerks start their terms on the Jan. 1 after a general election held in an even year.
There are three trustees and one clerk per township, said Mahaska County Deputy Auditor Teresa Paige. There are 18 townships in Mahaska County, she said.
Township trustees are elected by residents that live outside incorporated cities and towns. The are responsible for fire protection, cemeteries, ambulance services and they resolve fencing disputes. They also may provide other services such as parks, libraries, township halls, community centers and playgrounds, according to information from the Iowa State Association of Counties.
The three elected township trustees are required by law to meet at least twice a year. They have to meet once to adopt a budget and establish a tax levy rate, and again to approve the Annual Report that reflects the financial activity for the prior fiscal year, according to ISAC.
Township clerks are the secretaries to the trustees as well as the chief financial officer of the township. Under the trustees’ supervision, clerks prepare the budget and annual report.
The township trustees serve staggered terms, Paige said.
A person interested in running for township trustee does not have to take out papers, Paige said. Instead, they need to have a notarized affidavit of candidacy. Once that is turned in at the county auditor’s office, the candidate will appear on the ballot, she said.
“They tend to serve quite a while,” Paige said. “It’s hard to get someone to run.”
Many times there is just one candidate running for a trustee office or there’s a write-in situation, she added.