EILEEN, Wis. – Across rural areas of our nation, people on the land are making government work by serving as local elected officials. Marty Milanowski is one of those people.
Milanowski of the town of Eileen in far-northern Bayfield County has served on the town board for 16 years, with 10 as town chair. A full-time dairy farmer, he owns a 360-acre farm with his brother Mike Milanowski. Together with Marty Milanowski’s son Matt Milanowski they milk 75 cows in a fixed-stall operation. They say dairy farming is challenging for farmers with small herds. Fluctuating prices, tariffs and changing demand for fluid milk all make farming more difficult.
The Land Ordinance of 1785 established a uniform method of surveying land in the United States. Land was measured into townships – squares of land with 6-mile sides and an area of 36 square miles. Each square mile in a township was a section of 640 acres. In Wisconsin each township has a local government, as a “town.” That government is responsible for the administration of elections, property-tax assessment, fire and emergency services, town-road maintenance, garbage collection and recycling, zoning, some law enforcement, public parks and even cemeteries. The voters in each town elect neighbors to run that town’s government.
Service in the Navy and farming prepared Marty Milanowski to be a board member.
“Farming gives you a basic work ethic,” he said. “We aren’t in it for the money. You don’t go into farming to get rich; you do it because you like farming. You are not on a board for money. You try to do what is best for the whole town. You won’t please everybody, but you do what is best.
“The Navy was a good experience. I learned a lot and saw a lot of other countries. There’s nothing better than coming back home. We still have clean air, clean water. Once you are away for a while you appreciate home. A lot of the country here looks like it has never been touched and we want to preserve it.
“We try to help people out. We try to provide as many services as we can. Dust control, snow plowing, oversize culverts to handle the big rains we get now – we work with people. We try to keep the taxes down. We try to focus on businesses coming out to our township. A lot of young people are moving away because there are not jobs; these business provide jobs. A mix of businesses and agriculture that preserves the rural environment where people want to live with lower taxes is the goal.”
To people considering service on a town board Marty said, “You should want to help your community out. Use common sense. Some people get elected and a little power goes to their head. Talk to people. If they ask for some services, do your best to provide them. I tell people who work for the town, talk to people. See what they want and need. We have an annual town picnic so people get to know each other and their elected officials better. Be ready to listen and solve problems when they come up. You meet a lot of people and you learn a lot.”
Democracy is alive and well in the town of Eileen in far-northern Wisconsin. And most would agree Milanowski’s advice is good for anyone serving in any office in our nation.
Visit www.townofeileen.org for more information.