Martha Look, of Lake Edward Township, was an elected member of her township's government since 1974. Some of those sworn in to elected posts recently might not have been born yet in 1974.
"Other people tried to get in for a few years, but I still made it," said Look, who retired at the end of 2020. "Then after that, nobody tried."
Look grew up in the Brainerd area, where her family owned a small farm. She was the youngest of three children. Her oldest sibling was a sister and her middle sibling was a brother.
"My brother wrote to me not long ago that it was nice on Nov. 30 of 1932, he could remember waking up and he had a little sister," said Look, who just turned 88.
Her father was a pharmacist at a drug store at Eighth and Laurel streets in Brainerd, and that was the location of her first job. She later moved on to work with a different pharmacist when her father told her she was giving customers too much ice cream in the store's malts.
Look remembers when she was at the pharmacy, their family dog would walk all the way to town to sit in the corner and keep them company until they went home. Aside from work at the pharmacy, Look was responsible for some of the farm work, at least until her senior year of high school.
"One day I said, 'I'm a senior in school and all the kids tease me because I smell like a barn,'" Look said. "I couldn't milk the cows without leaning my head against their bodies. I said, 'Either sell the cows or I'm going to quit school,' and the cows went."
Look's time as Lake Edward Township clerk started with a trip to the town hall with her husband.
"Back in 1974, we had something we wanted to go to the town hall about," Look said. "The clerk there wanted to retire. She asked, 'Why don't you file?' Well, I did, and there were several others that filed too. I asked people why they elected me and they said, 'Well, we like the sound of your name.'"
"I asked people why they elected me and they said, 'Well, we like the sound of your name.'"
— Martha Look
Look drew from her previous employment while she was clerk. She got her start in unrelated fields, as many do, first working for her father at his pharmacy in her high school years and then pressing seams in a shop on Laurel Street in Brainerd. Just before she became clerk she worked in the office at Nash Finch, where she said her experience came in handy once she became the township clerk.
The position of clerk fit neatly into her lifestyle. Look and her husband never had biological children, but they became the loving parents two children needed when their family went through a rough patch.
"They wanted them, but they didn't want each other to have them," Look said. "The mother went away for the weekend and asked if we would watch them. I said yes, and I've had them ever since. After we had them for several years their grandmother came and said, 'I found my kids.' I said, 'Yeah, you found them, but as far as I'm concerned they're my kids.'"
Raising two children, Look pursued a career that would allow her to be home when they were. She applied with the Brainerd School District.
"I asked about work and they said, yeah, they needed help in the kitchen," Look said.
Look worked in various kitchens across the school district, starting at Franklin School, followed by Garfield School and finally Washington School where she became cook manager until 1998.
All the while she continued working as clerk with her township as well as head election judge and manager of the local cemetery. She spent many years overseeing elections, recording details from meetings and marking gravesites and digging small holes. She continued in the position until it became clear that the job was getting more and more technical.
"I enjoyed it," Look said. "I always did everything on paper at first. It was always done on paper. When I worked even this year I worked on it my way, then they decided we would have to go to the computer."
Look has been using computers with the township for years, but every year there was more and more computer work, and less she was supposed to do on paper.
"I said it's time. I'm 88 years old and it's time to retire because I can't keep up with all this."
— Martha Look
"I said it's time. I'm 88 years old and it's time to retire because I can't keep up with all this," Look said.
Look's term technically lasts another two years; however, she decided to resign her position. The township board appointed Loni Burnard as her replacement.
Look said she spends her spare time with her sister, who is 95.
"I go there several times a week and help her," Look said. "She's getting where she forgets things. One eye is blind and the other is bad."
Look may be retired, but she still has plenty to keep her occupied. She helps to pick up her sister's medicines and brings her to and from church where she has volunteered for many years. She may not be township clerk anymore, but she is still visible in her community.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.