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"The 9,000 township officers across Minnesota are the best lobbyists in the entire state," Lothar Walter told a large audience of Fillmore County township officers at Eagle Bluff last Thursday evening.
Walter is the current president of the Minnesota Association of Townships. He said that he has seen projections from the recent census and that Minnesota’s population was expected to break down as two-thirds metro and one-third rural, compared to the 1990 figures of 55% metro and 45% rural.
"As township officers we’ve got to mingle with our elected officials and let them know what our concerns in rural Minnesota are," he said.
Other issues of rural concern were raised by Senator Kenric Scheevel and Representative Greg Davids during their remarks.
Scheevel said that when Rochester Township was annexed by the city of Rochester, the township did not receive the benefits of the city’s sewer and water system, but at the same time, the township’s residents saw their taxes increase substantially.
Davids pointed out that electrical deregulation would not prove beneficial for townships, as electrical companies would compete for the business of larger companies and factories, but disregard the needs of small rural consumers. "What’s going to happen to that person that lives out fifteen miles southeast of Whalan?" Davids asked rhetorically.
The theme of change across rural Minnesota was raised by the evening’s featured speaker, Neil Haugerud, as well.
Haugerud, the author of the best-selling memoir, Jailhouse Stories, said, "Fillmore County has been discovered, not only by tourists but by corporate America as well. And corporations are not necessarily concerned about our environment. They have no soul, no heart and no conscience. It’s government that is the conscience of the corporations. And township government is the most basic form of government that we have."
Haugerud talked of his days as sheriff of Fillmore County during the late 1950’s and 1960’s, and related a few colorful anecdotes from his book. He said that Jailhouse Stories was a humorous history book but it was also a book about change.
"I love Fillmore County," he said. "Change is coming and it’s going to be tremendous. I only hope that we can continue to nurture the unique character of the people that we have in this area."