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How to Run for Township Supervisor

2 min read
Town Hall
Laurette LaLiberte · Apr 10, 2024

Local government positions form the foundation of American democracy, providing critical services and representation for the communities they serve. Among these vital roles, the office of township supervisor stands out as a key figure in municipal governance. 

If you're considering a foray into local politics, running for township supervisor is an excellent starting point. Read on to learn more about the responsibilities of a township supervisor. We’ll also explore which states elect township supervisors and the qualifications you’ll need to run for this office. 

What Does a Township Supervisor Do?

The township supervisor is the executive head of the township. It’s not just a ceremonial office, but one that includes many duties that directly impact the community's well-being. 

A township supervisor is sort of like being a mayor or a city manager, but the jurisdiction may cover one or more cities and/or towns. Township supervisors also act in a similar capacity to mayors in large areas, such as those in Michigan that encompass several smaller towns or villages. 

Key responsibilities of a township supervisor include:

  • Budget Management: Supervisors oversee the township's budget, ensuring fiscal responsibility and allocating funds to various departments and projects.

  • Legislative Functions: While the scope of the role varies by state and township, supervisors often have a vote on the township board, contributing to legislative decisions that shape local policy.

  • Administrative Oversight: Supervisors manage day-to-day operations, coordinate between departments, and ensure that local services meet community needs.

  • Public Representation: As a public figure, the township supervisor represents the township at various functions and to higher levels of government, advocating for the community's interests.

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Where Are Township Supervisors Elected?

There are 20 states that have a township form of classification, but not all of them elect township supervisors as a separate office. Of the states that do, each has a unique structure of local government and responsibilities. 

Notably, township supervisors are elected in:

  • Michigan: In Michigan, townships serve as essential units of local government, with the township supervisor playing a critical leadership role. Responsibilities include acting as the township’s legal agent, developing and allocating the board budget, and appointing commission members. 

  • New York: New York's townships, which are simply referred to as "towns," elect supervisors to oversee fiscal matters relevant to local government functions. They essentially act as the chief financial officer or treasurer for their jurisdiction, overseeing matters like payroll, budgeting, tax collection, and remittance.  

  • Minnesota: Governing Minnesota’s 1,806 townships are three-member elected supervisory boards. They are put into office in a staggered fashion during annual elections, and each supervisor serves a three-year term. In most cases, any budgeting, expenditures, or tax matters are only approved by consent of the voters in their township. 

  • Pennsylvania: In Pennsylvania, township supervisors play a much bigger role. Not only are they in charge of public spending; they also oversee public safety, code enforcement, growth, infrastructure, and more. 

As you can see, these positions can vary in name, power, and responsibility across different states and even within states, reflecting the diverse nature of local governance in the United States.

Qualifications to Run for Township Supervisor

While specific qualifications may vary based on local statutes and regulations, several common criteria must typically be met to run for township supervisor:

  1. Residency: In most cases, candidates must be residents of the township in which they are running for a specified period before the election. This ensures that supervisors have a personal stake in the community's welfare.

  2. Age: Most jurisdictions require candidates to be of a certain minimum age, often 18 or 21 years old.

  3. Voter Registration: Being a registered voter in the township is typically a prerequisite, which demonstrates the candidate's engagement with the democratic process.

  4. No Conflicting Offices: Candidates often must not hold any other incompatible public office or certain types of employment within the township government.

Additional qualifications may include educational requirements, specific financial disclosures, or other criteria as mandated by local laws.

How to Run for Township Supervisor: A Step-by-Step Guide

Running for township supervisor requires careful planning, a deep understanding of local issues, and a strong commitment to public service. 

Here's a step-by-step guide to launching your campaign:

1. Understand the role and requirements.

Before diving into a campaign, research the duties and powers of the township supervisor in your area, as well as the qualifications and legal requirements for candidates. Resources like our local office lookup tool and local government websites can provide valuable information.

2. Assess your community’s needs.

Engage with your community to understand voters’ concerns, needs, and aspirations. Successful candidates should be able to articulate a vision for their community’s future that resonates with the electorate's priorities.

3. Build your campaign team.

Assemble a team of supporters, volunteers, and advisors who believe in your candidacy and can help manage various aspects of the campaign, from fundraising to outreach.

4. Fundraise and budget.

Campaign financing is critical for many local campaigns. Develop a fundraising strategy that complies with local campaign finance laws, and create a budget that allocates resources effectively across your campaign activities.

5. Develop a campaign strategy.

Your campaign strategy should include clear messaging, targeted voter outreach, and a plan for leveraging social media and other communication platforms to connect with voters.

6. Register and file the necessary paperwork.

Ensure that you complete all the necessary registration forms and filings by the deadlines specified by your local election office. This step is crucial to officially becoming a candidate for office.

7. Campaign actively.

Hit the ground running with door-to-door canvassing, community events, debates, and any opportunity to engage directly with voters. Visibility and engagement are key to building trust and recognition.

8. Prepare for election day.

In the run-up to Election Day, focus on get-out-the-vote efforts. Ensure your supporters know when and where to vote, and understand the importance of their participation. Utilize volunteers for last-minute canvassing and to provide assistance to voters who may need help getting to the polls.

9. Reflect and follow up.

Regardless of the election’s outcome, it's important to reflect on the campaign's successes and areas for improvement. If you win, you can start preparing for the transition into elected office, focusing on fulfilling your campaign promises and serving your community as an effective leader. If the results don't go your way, consider staying active in local politics, supporting community initiatives, and preparing for future campaigns.

Free Support for Your Campaign

Running for township supervisor is a unique opportunity to make an impact at the local level. By understanding the responsibilities of the role, engaging with community needs, and navigating the campaign process, you can position yourself as an effective leader who’s dedicated to their township's prosperity. 

Your campaign for township supervisor is a chance to bring about positive change, advocate for meaningful policies, and represent the interests of your neighbors and fellow citizens. can help you build an effective campaign strategy, and we’ll provide free access to the tools you need to run for township supervisor and win. Contact us to talk to an expert and book a free demo of our campaign tools today!

Photo by Aiden Guinnip on Unsplash

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How to Run for Office
Town Hall
By Laurette LaLiberte
Laurette LaLiberte is an activist and freelance writer located in Michigan.