By Starrla Cray
WOODLAND TOWNSHIP, MONTROSE, MN In his 34 years on the Woodland Township Board 29 of them as chairman Ken Pawelk of rural Montrose discovered a valuable treasure.
“I heard that someone who has one person as a friend is a rich man. If that’s the case, I must be very rich,” Ken said.
At Ken’s final meeting last Monday, the board said farewell with a special plaque.
“The plaque contains the gavel that Woodland Township has used forever . . . the board felt he deserved the gavel, which was made from a broken chair leg,” Clerk Gloria Janikula noted.
Ken said he will greatly miss serving on the township board, but doesn’t feel his health allows him to continue.
“My eyesight is so poor, I couldn’t read the reports,” he said.
For Ken, one of the best parts about serving on the board was keeping up with township news. Fortunately, he’ll still be kept in the loop through his son, Barry Pawelk, who is taking over as supervisor.
Ken also loved the social aspect of township office.
“We had a lot of fun just talking,” he said. “Years ago, we usually played cards after the meetings.”
One night while playing cards, Ken remembers that the board got hungry.
“I called [my wife] Germaine, and she made hamburgers for everyone and brought them over,” Ken recalled. “The guys were all impressed that she would do that for me.”
Germaine (a Waverly native) and Ken raised four children Barry, Rick, Terry, and Tammy. Now, they also have 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
The couple lives on the same property where Ken and his seven siblings grew up, although the original house was made of logs.
After graduating from high school in Watertown in 1935, Ken spent eight years in the National Guard. He also milked cows for many years.
Thirty-four years ago, a neighbor asked him to serve on the Woodland Township Board, because the current supervisor was moving away.
“At that time, I was really farming, and it was hard to get away,” Ken recalled.
Despite a full schedule, Ken made time for the meetings, and also made time to listen to residents’ concerns.
“When I went to see someone, usually the first thing I’d ask is how the roads were,” Ken said.
He laughed as he recalled one fellow’s response: “Good, until they graded them.”
Ken said that, no matter what, there’s going to be someone who isn’t satisfied.
“You always remember the bad ones,” he said. “If they don’t say anything, things are good.”
Although residents didn’t support the board’s decisions at all times, Ken said he got along well with his constituents.
“I always liked people,” he said. “I never wanted to make anyone upset.”
Ken also got along with fellow board members. He affectionately described former supervisor Harvey Young (who passed away in 2007) as a “clown,” and said supervisor Gene Janikula has been on the board longer than he has.
“They’ve all been good to me,” Ken said.