Iowa residents living in rural areas outside of incorporated cities rely on their local township government to provide a broad range of services, from vital functions such as fire protection to maintenance of public cemeteries and the resolution of fence disputes. Some townships may choose to provide other support such as emergency medical service, township halls, parks, libraries, community centers, and playgrounds.
The township clerk and the township trustees are the locally elected officials who are responsible for seeing that these services are delivered effectively and economically. Their job is important and they represent the heart of local government for township residents. Yet many trustees and clerks assume their jobs with little or no training and experience.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Office of State and Local Government Programs (OSLGP) began conducting township trustee and clerk workshops in the 1970s to help trustees and clerks understand their roles and responsibilities. The most emphatic recommendation of those attending the early workshops was to publish a guide of the key legal provisions and responsibilities of township trustees and clerks.
In response, OSLGP and ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development staff assembled a series of publications that have been revised and updated several times over the past several decades. The Township Trustee and Clerk Reference Manual was first published in 2002 and was revised in 2013.
Many changes in the law have occurred since the 2002 edition of this manual. Of particular note, the new manual covers compliance with the 2011 open meetings and records laws, the 2005 cemetery laws, and other changes in reporting and record keeping.
OSLGP offers on-site township trustee and clerk training upon requestf or township trustees, township clerks, elected and appointed county officials. The two-hour sessions cost $500 plus $20 for each manual requested. The session fee includes the trainer, mileage to and from the site, handouts and evaluations.
The Township Trustee and Clerk Reference Manual is available for sale at the ISU Extension and Outreach Store.