Sturgeon Bay Common Council Election: District 5 Questionnaire

Gary Nault is a retired Sturgeon Bay Firefighter who spent 31 years with the department. He has served as chair of the city’s Harbor Commission since 2005 and is chair fo the Sturgeon Bay Sport Fishing Association. “My years of living in the district and my past and present leadership positions make me feel that I am the best choice to represent the citizens of District 5.” The 71 year-old married father of adult children also serves as a fire service instructor at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Sarah Evenson is a fifth-generation resident of the Sturgeon Bay area and the owner of The Dandelion Culture, a community wellbing movement, holistic hairstylist at The Hairapist, and an International Build Leader for Habitat for Humanity. The 36 year-old has a degree in journalism and mass communication and has served as a board member and volunteer for several area nonprofits, including four years a fellowship leader at Crossroads Lutheran Church.

What attributes and skills would you bring to the common council?

GN: For many years I have promoted Sturgeon Bay as an excellent place to enjoy the natural resources, especially it’s great fishing opportunities, a wonderful place to vacation, and even a greater place to live and retire in.  As a retired firefighter, I know the inner workings of city government and have the time to devote to the challenges of the roll of alderman in District 5. I have attended many meetings of the City Council, committee meetings, and West Waterfront meetings and am up to speed on city issues preparing myself for this position.  With all of that, my main goal is to bring the voice of the citizens of District 5 back to city government. When major issues like some that we are struggling with at this time come up, I will place my votes on what my constituents relay to me in comments and opinions. I will always be there to listen to those who have elected me as their representative.   

SE: My roots run deep within Door County and having left to expand my experiences, perspectives, and skills, I made the choice to move back home to Sturgeon Bay ready to share what I have gained for our greater good. Our city is at a turning point and my fresh eyes, fresh ideas, and fresh spirit can help reunite and grow us forward. I specifically created a career and path that positively impacts my community. I lead with transparency and by example using integrity, moral courage, and fearless love. My expertise lies in active listening; civil and effective communication; compromise and collaboration that supports the whole; and I strive to bring celebration back into the daily grind. I welcome diversity and tradition and embrace their values for resilient results. My strength is in being a bridge and conduit between the experts and the heartbeat of this city – you, us.

What changes would you suggest, if any, to the way the city conducts council meetings and solicits public input at those meetings?

GN: The City’s Council meetings have not been the best atmosphere for conducting the City’s business.  To improve this situation would require all Council members to take part in a “Meeting Ethics” program, which would set guidelines for appropriate courtesy towards other members, respect for opinions of others, and meeting behavior.  The policies of the guidelines would be drafted by the Community, Protection, & Services Committee and voted on by the City Council.

Public input is an important part of receiving opinions, comments, & information on which Council members can base their decisions.  This definitely improves the knowledge of an issue so better decisions can be made. The Ethics code has to include citizen speakers at Council meetings.  Rules for speaking at Council meetings will have to be posted & printed on speaking request forms. Notice will be given that any attacks at Council members or Mayor’s character would not be allowed and if repeated by one person their request to speak would not be given.  Speakers at the podium will be required to keep information and comments businesslike and positive, and be required to keep within the Mayor’s timeframe. These practices will definitely make for better meetings and public input. With this I am positive better decisions will be the outcome.

SE: I believe the soon to be adopted Ethics Ordinance for city council meetings will be a valuable support and guide for effective, inclusive, and healthy community-council dialogue, culture, and united action. What we see transforming in our city government is the shift from vertical leadership to a horizontal leadership approach. This is desired as it empowers and gives responsibility to all citizens to play an active roll in building our community and city. The Mayor and Alderpersons are voted in because their strengths are active listening, finding the common thread, and being an advocate for the city as a whole for today, for our future, and in gratitude to our past. We can’t do our job if we don’t encourage and embrace open dialogue. This is not only happening here, but at the state and national level, too. We are right on track Sturgeon Bay!

Would you change the way the city approaches economic development, and if so, how?

GN:  Our City’s economic development is very diverse.  It includes our industrial park, tourism industry, retail sector, and many specialized small businesses.  The best method is not to change the way we approach this, but to build on what has been done and improve by bringing all of the stakeholders together and base approaches on their advice and experiences they have had.  This will describe the outline for Sturgeon Bay to follow in attracting new development in all of the sectors. We also have to continue to work with all of our industry and businesses to provide them with needed resources to assure they continue to stay in Sturgeon Bay.

SE: The new director, Jim Schuessler, and his team at the Door County Economic Development Corp. values a multi-prong approach to development and understands the immediate need of housing, daycare, and retail options to keep our dollars within our community. This helps fulfill the needs for those of us who already live here; draws new families, professionals, and entrepreneurs to call our city, home; and encourages a vibrant intergenerational culture that makes Sturgeon Bay, Sturgeon Bay. I am also an advocate for and an active citizen in integrating sustainable and green policies and practices to development. This opens up new funding opportunities, energizes public-private partnerships, and of course, creates a resilient environment and community for the generations to come. The city has already begun to adjust its approach and I am excited to see what will all unfold!

How should the city encourage development of more affordable apartments?

GN:  The housing development issue is not new to Sturgeon Bay.  The Door County Economic Development Corporation has made great strides in addressing the problem – both with a study and working with potential developers.  That will continue and Sturgeon Bay has to stay on the forefront of that process. As for pricing housing units, it is important to know what is the ideal price range is that is affordable for families.  Potential developers can then be contacted informing them on what the ideal price ranges are so they can adjust their building plans accordingly. Again, the City has to continue its partnership with the DCEDC to accomplish this.

SE: We have a valuable resource right here, right now, that could possibly be a huge help with this. That resource is Habitat for Humanity. When I led a Habitat build in El Salvador, we were not building one home for one family – we were building many homes for many families. It was called a “Community Build” and it was designed to provide relief for a community in crisis. We have the development of apartments underway so this project would focus on the affordable homes and also the demand for more simple living and the downsizing lifestyle. We can get the schools involved and have the students learn valuable life skills while making a difference in their community; we can make it authentic to our Sturgeon Bay culture and beautiful natural environment; and we can heal and strengthen our relationships with one another because we are the builders, building together.

If the proposed PRAT Tax to fund street improvements does not gain traction in the state legislature, what should the city do to address the state of its crumbling streets?

GN:  I have great hope in the Premier Resort Area Tax (PRAT), as it is by far the fairest solution to our street issues.  It makes all users of our roadways pay for its repairs. If that doesn’t materialize, we will as a Council, find alternative funding that our citizens can afford.  We will have to develop a plan that works for all under the guidance of our city engineer. He has provided us with a great plan using existing funding. Our City Council has to make state government realize the PRAT is our best and fairest option.  An alternative is a wheel tax, which would not be my favorite method or a favorite of the citizens. It will only charge local residents for street repairs, which is very unfair in my book. The PRAT was chosen as the favored choice by a 70 percent margin.  If that does not happen, City Council will have to go back and find other options that the citizens will endorse.

SE: As I mentioned at the forum, it takes time for things to happen at the state level so that can never be our only approach and focus. We have the option to revisit the alternate plans the City Street Adhoc committee recommended while we proactively work to create more tax generated income by addressing our housing, daycare, and retail development needs. What can also quicken and multiply funding for our city needs is if all sides of the Westside Waterfront War could meet one another, compromise, and decide to move forward and for good. Lawsuits have been a big expense, continued fighting delays development, and our grocery list of “must do’s” doesn’t stop growing because we have decided to stop growing forward, together. We have to start to realize and take individual ownership that we, too, are costing ourselves money.

What is the biggest opportunity you see for the City of Sturgeon Bay?

GN:  Sturgeon Bay’s opportunities are endless.  We live in a great city. I have seen Sturgeon Bay change from a four shipyard city to a tourist destination with an outstanding industrial base.  Our biggest opportunity is to promote Sturgeon Bay as the best small city in which to live, with job opportunities, great schools, low crime, and above all a great work force.  Add that to our outstanding natural resources and waterway, and Sturgeon Bay will continue to attract the economic development and new citizens we want to see. We have to let the world know this!

SE: The biggest opportunity I see for Sturgeon Bay is to start putting feet to our faith. We are a community that puts a lot of value on our spiritual connectedness  – just look at all of the churches within our city limits. If we can challenge ourselves – if even only by 10% – to up our practice of faith outside of church and within our city dynamics and adversity, the common unity that brought us all here and made us neighbors will help us grow forward, vibrantly together. Let’s grow tradition together, Sturgeon Bay! It’s time.