On Aug. 31, the Port Sheldon Township treasurer retired after more than four decades of service to her community. She was elected a whopping 12 times.
Esther was first encouraged to run for office in 1972, when controversy broke out in the township.
“There were a number of us who didn’t like the way the administration was doing things,” she said. “We didn’t have big fights or anything. We just didn’t like what was happening in the township and where it was going. So, I decided to run.”
When Esther announced her first campaign, her son Tom was in his late teens.
“There was a lot of excitement around election time,” said Tom. “I remember having a lot of people over at the house, waiting for the election results to come in. Even though the township was small, politics was pretty big then.”
Finally, the announcement came. Esther had won the treasurer’s seat, and the challengers had replaced all but one member of the previous board.
“It was very euphoric,” she said.
Serving as the township treasurer came with new responsibilities.
“Collecting taxes in the summer and winter, sending out tax bills, and keeping track of all the finances of the township,” she explained. “There are many other facets, too. You’re also a board member and you help with all of the decisions that are made with the township.”
Those decisions could sometimes be quite difficult.
“In the beginning, we had to decide which roads to blacktop and hard surface,” Esther said. “Sometimes, you have to tell people they can’t do something because it’s against zoning ordinances. You can also make exceptions. It’s a matter of running the township and making sure you’re doing what the rest of the people in the township want you to do.”
Esther grew up on the south side of Holland. At the time, her home was located outside the city limits.
“It was a rural community then,” she said. “I lived in an area where we had one elementary school, one teacher and nine grades in a single room. I eventually came to Holland for high school.”
After graduation, Esther wasn’t sure what the future would hold.
“Things were so different then,” she said. “All the young men were going into the service. It was a very, very patriotic time. At that time, there weren’t the opportunities there are today for women. It was either a teacher, a secretary or a nurse. That was about it.”
Esther decided to attend college. During that time, she worked various jobs around town. After a year, she left college and was later married. Between her marriage and her move to Port Sheldon Township in 1953, Esther worked for the West Ottawa school district. Her job with the district lasted more than 21 years.
“My mother has an incredible work ethic,” Tom said. “She and my father have both set an example. They bought the property where they live more than 60 years ago. They even had a Christmas tree farm, and she’d be out there with my dad, holding a machete. They worked, worked, worked their entire lives to get ahead.”
Leaving that work has been odd, but satisfying, for Esther.
“It is strange, but it’s good,” she said. “I’m very busy with a lot of other activities that I’m involved in — church and sewing and my family, who are all living close by.”
In the meantime, on the Port Sheldon Township Board, former management representative Rachel Frantom has been selected to serve in Esther’s place. In November 2020, Frantom will be asked to run for re-election.
“She’s a really great girl, and she’s doing a great job from what I can tell,” Esther said. “I trained her and it’s amazing, because she’s right in the middle of a huge part of tax season. She’s got a tremendous amount of people coming in.”
According to Tom, his mother shows no signs of slowing down.
“She still works her garden every year, and that’s not going to change,” he said. “She’s out there pounding stakes and putting fences up. She does it all by herself. She’s just a tireless worker. She never gives up.”