Years before she would become May Township’s treasurer, back when the town hall sat near East Boot Lake, election day often turned into a late night for Cheryl Bennett.
“I remember counting paper ballots until 3 or 4 in the morning,” she said.
It turned out to be just an introduction to the township’s inner workings.
“I think that’s how I got into the whole process,” Bennett reflected. “Laurel Coleman was the clerk then and she was looking for election judges. … That was a long time ago.”
In 1987, as the March election approached, then-treasurer Rolf Ljungkull had decided not to run again. Bennett was asked to run and thought, “Why not?”
She’d lived in May Township for a decade. She was a stay-at-home mom at the time, but had experience in accounting, having worked at a bank and in the accounting department of Nagele Outdoor Advertising.
The treasurer job was about 20 hours a month, hours she could handle while managing a household.
She decided to run and, soon after, found herself with a part-time job.
At the time, the township’s ledgers were kept by hand.
“Cyd Young was the clerk and she and I both had a set of books,” Bennett recalled. “We’d bring them to the meeting with the bills and have them signed. She’d get the receipts in, enter them, then I’d enter them and bring them to the bank. There are some big ledgers in the basement from our days.”
Over the course of 32 years, Bennett has seen a lot change in the township.
Some of that change has been specific to her job, such as the move to electronic accounting in the early 1990s. As the responsibilities of her position grew, so did Bennett’s skill set.
“By the mid-90s the income level of the township was large enough that we were required to have an audit,” she said. “The job got more detailed. There were more requirements and more reporting. That’s one of the reasons in 2012 the board put on the ballot to have the treasurer and clerk positions appointed.
“For the treasurer position, you do really need some accounting background and you need to be a detail person. Even with the clerk there are so many more rules and regulations we need to follow now.”
Other changes she’s observed in the township have been broader in scope. For instance, a shift away from farming, part of a larger trend driven by a changing economy.
“When I was first elected we had two career farmers on the board, George Smith and John Keller,” she said. “That’s changed. Now we have more business people on the board.
“We’ve had a lot more development since I started. There was a 10-acre density and there still is, but they’ve changed the ordinance to do cluster developments. It’s smart keeping the open space. We’re just seeing some of the loss of farmland.”
Reflecting on her years of service, Bennett called the treasurer position “a great part-time job for a stay at home mom.”
“One of the biggest benefits of doing this job and being a mom was that it gave me great flexibility. I could do things with my daughters when they were in school.”
As for her plans for the future, she sees continued emphasis on family and a little more time for personal pursuits.
“I have two small grandsons, so my focus will be spending more time with them, golfing and hopefully travelling,” she said.
Sweden, the land from which Bennett’s maternal grandparents emigrated, is a place she’d like to visit again.
“I went with my daughters in 2017 and really enjoyed it,” she said. “I can see why the Swedes immigrated to this area. I want to go back to Sweden and do more digging into ancestry.”