Mount Pleasant trustees approved 6-1 a charter ordinance that will change the way residents in 2016 and going forward elect board members.
Instead of voting in an at-large election where the top three vote-getters win two-year terms, trustee seats will instead be numbered. They will not represent any geographic area and will continue to serve at large.
After Village Administrator Kurt Wahlen reviewed the proposal and motions were made to open the topic up for discussion, Trustee Gary Feest – the lone dissenting vote – said he doesn’t really have an issue with at-large or numbered seats, but he felt the issue should have been put to residents first to find out where they stand.
“This is not necessarily a bad idea. Again, my only issue is we didn’t ask the residents what they think and instead are telling them what they think,” he explained.
But other trustees – Rick McCluskey, David DeGroot and Sonny Havn, along with President Jerry Garski – said they didn’t have an issue with the change.
“I don’t agree with at-large bidding because good trustees can lose because of popularity,” McCluskey said. “People should have the opportunity to choose.”
Changing the way the village is governed falls under the rules of a charter ordinance, which required a two-thirds vote to approve and doesn’t go into effect for 60 days. According to the League of Wisconsin Municipalities website, if residents don’t agree with the ordinance, they can in the intervening 60 days collect signatures that equal at least 7 percent of the votes cast for governor in 2014 to compel the issue to a referendum.
The village board can also choose – before or after adoption – to send the matter to referendum themselves.
Community Development Director Logan Martin pointed out there are several Wisconsin cities with populations equal to or even less than that of Mount Pleasant, and their municipal boards are elected no different that the City of Racine’s; by numbered seat representing specific areas. If Mount Pleasant ever gets to the point where officials there want to become a city, numbered seats are a necessary first step.
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