Township Supervisors: Building Better Communities, One Step At A Time

By David M. Sanko

Watch David Sanko on Behind the Headlines


This Local Government Week let’s celebrate the unsung heroes who make our neighborhoods thrive: township officials — supervisors, managers, road crews, and many more.

You might recognize them at the grocery store or see them patching potholes. These dedicated public servants share a common goal: building a stronger community for you and your loved ones.

Local Government Week (April 8-14) is the perfect time to appreciate the vital role townships play in Pennsylvania’s governance. Unlike larger entities, townships are built on resident participation. Here, your voice matters, every expense is carefully considered, and services reflect community needs and budgets. Townships are essentially full-service, grassroots democracies overseen by your neighbors, who work tirelessly to deliver cost-effective solutions.

Township communities face challenges together, and while townships haven’t been immune to rising costs, township officials and staff continue to deliver essential services within limited budgets. Let’s show our gratitude the next time we see them around the community.

Initially, township supervisors mainly oversaw roads. Today, their responsibilities are far more diverse. They must be well-versed in complex issues like land use, budgeting, transportation, stormwater management, and public safety.

Furthermore, as residents themselves, township supervisors are constantly accessible. Fielding late-night calls and plowing roads through the night are not uncommon.

Imagine a world without townships. A larger, centralized government would manage our communities. Issues would need to be addressed by distant officials, unfamiliar with our specific needs. Local democracy would vanish, replaced by a more expensive and impersonal system.

Pennsylvania’s three-tiered government system — state, county, and local — reflects the Founding Fathers’ vision of divided responsibilities. Imagine a telescope: The state provides a broad view, counties offer a regional perspective, and townships focus on the local level.

Township government isn’t just another layer; it’s the foundation. It’s local leaders, your neighbors, working within budget constraints to deliver the services you need.

So, when you and your family enjoy a safe, affordable community with a high quality of life and low taxes, thank your township officials. The parks, well-maintained roads, safe environment — these are all testaments to the vision and dedication of your local leaders. They work tirelessly to turn their vision for a high-quality, affordable community into your reality.


About the author: David M. Sanko is the executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. With a broad background in local and state government, Sanko oversees an organization that is the primary advocate for the commonwealth’s 1,454 townships of the second class, which are home to close to 5.7 million Pennsylvanians and cover 95% of the commonwealth’s land mass.

Nothing contained here should be considered as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy.