RENO Twp. – Long-standing Reno Township Board of Trustees member, Eilert Barnes, attended his last meeting as treasurer for the municipality on Nov. 11, as he will be retiring Nov. 30.
He has served his community as a township official for nearly five decades and his roots run deep in Reno, with Barnes being a wealth of knowledge on the local history of the area.
He began his work for the township in May 1970, starting out as a board trustee, which is a title he held until February 1986.
Barnes said it was at this time when the prior treasurer got a job with the federal government, and had to resign due to a conflict of interest. So Barnes stepped up to fill the role and, when he was re-elected the next term around, he stuck with it until the present day.
He says he has enjoyed his work and is not necessarily looking forward to leaving, but 50 years is quite a while and, simply put, it is time for him to move on.
He added that he was remarried in 2017, after his wife passed away in 2006. Barnes and his spouse would like to be able to spend more time in Florida, do a little traveling and so on, once he retires and has more free time.
Barnes has led a full, busy life, since day one. While his parents were each originally from Reno Township, he was born in Dearborn in 1935, when his mother and father moved there for employment during the Depression.
“My dad worked a few years for Ford Motor Company, then in 1944 we moved back up here,” Barnes recounts.
He said he always spent summers in Reno Township, though, as both sets of his grandparents came to the area at the same time, around 1911.
He added that one of his grandfathers was the first to bring white faced cattle to the neighborhood.
Barnes graduated from Plainfield Township Rural Agricultural High School, with the local district now known as Hale Area Schools (HAS). He says that five generations of his family have gone through HAS, with his aunt being in the second graduating class ever.
Prior to working for the township, Barnes served his country in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Germany and came out of the service in 1960.
He immediately began attending Reno’s annual spring meetings, which got the ball rolling on his involvement with local government.
His career also consisted of being a National Gypsum employee, in addition to a stint with GM, but he says most of his time was dedicated to the dairy industry.
The year Barnes graduated from high school, 1953, is the same year his family purchased hundreds of acres of land on Old State Road and kicked off their dairy business.
Barnes said they milked cows from 1953 until 2007, with he and his wife buying out his parents in the 1960s and keeping the business going from that point on.
He said that, as a dairy farmer, he typically looked after an average of 100 cows. “So it kept me busy. Good thing I had good help; family help.”
Barnes went on to have three children – including daughter Valerie Cryderman, who serves as Vice President of the HAS Board of Education – three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“My son lives in Grand Blanc, and he’s an engineer for GM,” Barnes said of his son Todd.
His other son Scott, along with his grandson, have taken over the family farm – once called Hope Creek Farm – from which they now run an Angus beef operation.
Barnes still owns the land and lives just a short distance from the farm, on which other family have also resided at one time or another.
“I love the area. We’re attached to our farm, the land. My son’s the same way, and my grandson – they don’t want to go any place else,” Barnes shared.
“We’ve got around 600 acres right now that belongs to my son and I,” he continued. “And then my brother’s two sons, they have the rest, and my sister.”
As for his work with Reno Township, Barnes points out that the municipality doesn’t have a lot of businesses, so one focus of officials has been maintaining the area as a rural township. “It’s pretty much farm land and hunting land.”
He said one significant, ongoing effort of the board has been keeping up on the roads, which includes doing complete dust control on every street.
“I was pushing for that for a while,” said Barnes, noting that it helps to better maintain the roads.
Exploring more efficient ways to enforce zoning ordinances, and working on the township’s most recently updated master plan, were also listed by Barnes as some of the bigger projects he has had a hand in.
He added that his work with the public has been a positive experience, as well, and that he never encountered any major issues.
“I’ve never had any trouble with anybody being unreasonable. I guess I feel that, I’m working for the people of the township; that’s it. They’re not working for us. That’s how most of us on the board feel,” according to Barnes.
“We have a good board. We’ve always got along good,” he went on.
He also commends the trustees for being very active and involved with the Michigan Townships Association.
“There’s a lot of good people in the township governments up here. Most of them are pretty honest. If you’re not honest, you don’t have anything,” he asserts.
Barnes has witnessed many changes in his town over the years, as well. He recalled that when he first started out with the township, he did all the tax paperwork on spreadsheets until the switch was made to a computerized system.
He has also watched the Reno Township Hall building evolve over time. It was first constructed in 1904 – at a price of $1,004, and on a plot of land costing $20.
“This hall, back in the early ‘50s, sat over there on [M-65]. So when 65 was put in as a blacktop road, this was moved and a full basement under,” according to Barnes.
He said the township is proud of the renovations that have been made to the structure – which his grandparents were also a part of at one time – and the improvements which continue to take place.
In addition to local government, Barnes’ involvement throughout the years has included serving on the church council of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hale; participating in 4-H and FFA; working with the Soil Conservation Committee; serving as a representative of the Michigan Milk Producers Association; serving on the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; involvement with Iosco County Farm Bureau; and supporting area events, such as the Iosco County Fair.
“It’s been a busy life,” admits Barnes. Although he is stepping down from the township board, he says he will still be available to help with the transition to a new treasurer, as well as assisting with the upcoming busy tax season.
According to Barnes, Reno Township Trustee Michael Boensch has been selected as his replacement, and he will have to run for the job next fall if he chooses to continue.
Boensch’s predecessor says he will be a good fit. “And he is the business manager for Hale Area Schools. He knows what he’s doing.”
Barnes says he could use the break that will come with his retirement but, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself,” he added with a laugh.