Millstadt Township


Millstadt Township History

Compiled by Robert Buecher

Township Government Background Information

The Millstadt Township elected officials are the Supervisor, four Trustees, a Township Clerk, the Assessor, and the Highway Commissioner elected at large to a 4-year term. The township board consists of the Supervisor, acting as chairman, and four Trustees. The Township Clerk keeps records for the township board and is tasked with the election process.

The township system is a direct democracy. All townships hold an annual meeting at which each citizen may serve as an elector. During this meeting, citizens may vote on township financial and business affairs. The Township's fiscal year runs from March 1 to February 28, with the annual meeting being held by statute on the second Tuesday of April.

Township roads and bridges are maintained under the authority of the Township Highway Commissioner. A mandated responsibility of township government is to provide assistance for the needy, administered by the Supervisor's office.

Towns and township governments (both labeled as "townships" by the Census Bureau) have a special significance as small community institutions. The total service population of all towns and townships is enormous, but proportionately more operate in very small communities than either municipalities or counties. The 16,000 towns and townships served more than 52 million residents in 1987. This total included more than 1 million persons in each of 10 states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

More so than any other form of local government, the towns and townships are rooted in rural and small town traditions. New England towns of the 17th century were the first real local governments on the American continent, with Virginia counties running a close second. The nation owes many of its present ideas of local self-governance to these colonial organizations, including the town meeting and the election of many citizens to individual offices and boards. From New England, town government—in one form or another—spread south and west to several mid-Atlantic states and most of the Midwest.

Township governments actually were in place in most of the Midwestern states before they achieved statehood. A critical step in this process was the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, enacted by Congress to establish the initial government of the territory that eventually became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. The territorial governor and legislature began to create county and township governments in 1790, with the townships largely coinciding with the six-mile square land divisions established in the federal surveys of the region.

Today, towns and townships operate in all parts of 20 states, in three regions of the nation: New England—Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Mid-Atlantic—New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Midwest—Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. Because they often serve rural areas, Midwestern townships tend to emphasize providing roads and bridges, fire and rescue and other basic services to scattered populations. New England town governments—and mid-Atlantic towns and townships to a lesser degree—deliver extensive and varied services similar to those provided by cities. For example, towns in Connecticut, Maine and Vermont spend more in total revenues than cities in these states. Most New England towns also fund or administer K-12 schools. This regional variation in the role of town and township governments goes hand-in-hand with differences in what county governments do as service providers. In New England, where county governments are non-existent or perform limited activities (usually confined to judicial functions and regional jails), the towns are the primary local governments. Midwestern townships, however, share responsibilities with relatively active county governments.

Such regional distinctions are not always an accurate guide to the activities of individual governments. Many Midwestern townships, for example, have become municipal service providers in recent years. They take responsibility for such services as water supply, wastewater treatment, police protection and zoning and building code enforcement. Program expansions of this sort are usually responses to community change, particularly population growth, and occur in states where townships have flexible powers.

Source: Grassroots Governments and the People They Serve, National Association of Towns and Townships, 1988.

©1999 - 2004 Millstadt Township