Nasewaupee Residents Favor Expanding Town Board to Five Members

Nasewaupee is Door County’s third-largest municipality by population, but it has only three members on its town board, which is smaller than many of the county’s municipal boards that have smaller populations.

An effort is now underway to add two town supervisors to the board. During last month’s annual town meeting, Nasewaupee residents backed a nonbinding motion to expand the board to five members. The motion passed on a show of hands with 25 people voting in favor, according to the meeting minutes.

For the board to expand to five members, Nasewaupee Town Clerk Jill Lau said the board would have to pass an ordinance and that there’s enough time this year to do that and for the two additional supervisor seats to be included on the spring 2023 ballot.

The two-year terms of the town chair and current two supervisors also expire next spring and will appear on the ballot.

David Allen, a Nasewaupee resident who supported the motion, said adding two more supervisors would provide more diversity of time and energy on the board. 

He said it now constitutes a quorum for the three-person board when two members are present, and there is the potential to run afoul of the state’s open-meetings law if two board members would get together for purposes other than a noticed meeting. Allen said having five members would allow more people to serve on the board and also make it easier to deal with a vacancy.

According to Door County’s 2020 census numbers, Nasewaupee’s population of 2,119 is the third highest, behind only the Town of Sevastopol (2,742) and the City of Sturgeon Bay (9,542). Seveastopol has a five-member board with four supervisors and a town chair, while the city is governed by a mayor and seven council members.

Towns in the county with smaller populations than Nasewaupee and governed by a five-member board also composed of a town chair and four supervisors include Baileys Harbor, Egg Harbor, Gardner, Gibraltar, Liberty Grove and Washington.

All four of the county’s villages – Egg Harbor, Ephraim, Forestville and Sister Bay – are smaller in population than Nasewaupee and also have five-member boards composed of a village president and four trustees.

Allen said it’s time for Nasewaupee’s board to “join the rest of the world” and expand to five members.

Because the town has fewer than 2,500 residents, the motion made at the annual meeting was advisory, and it’s up to the board to approve the expansion to five members as required by state law.

Nasewaupee Town Chair Steve Sullivan said he expects the request to expand the board to five members will be on the agenda for the board’s next meeting on May 19.

Sullivan said he doesn’t have a preference at this point about whether the board should add two supervisors or stay at the current three members, but he said that one concern he has with a five-member board is getting town residents to run for office, given the uncontested races Nasewaupee has had in the past.

Southern Door Fire Department Update

Sullivan said the board’s May 19 meeting will also include consideration of what Nasewaupee should do in the future about fire protection after residents at last month’s annual town meeting urged the board to withdraw from the Southern Door Fire Department (SDFD) and instead form the town’s own department.

At the May 2 board meeting, Sullivan said the board selected the West & Dunn law firm based in Manitowoc County to provide the town with legal advice, should it decide to leave the SDFD.

The SDFD consists of the Village of Forestville and the towns of Nasewaupee, Clay Banks and Forestville, with each municipality having two members on the eight-person fire board that oversees the department.

The SDFD is funded with a tax levy based on equalized value, with Nasewaupee covering more than two-thirds of the department’s budget.

Sullivan has suggested changes to lower the town’s funding and increase its representation on the fire board as alternatives to leaving the SDFD.