Washington Island Town Chair Candidates

Elizabeth Holmes

Family: Daughter and Son

Education: Associate’s Degree in Business, Major Accounting

Occupation: Chef

Previous Elected Office: Supervisor

Why are you the best choice for town chair?

My service on the board began in 2005 and have continued to hold the position of Supervisor. For the past six years, I have gained experience and an understanding of what it is that makes this Island run and what all interested groups on the Island would like to see for the Island, and that includes full time residents, seniors, summer residents, businesses or laborers. We all have a common interest in that we are all taxpayers.

Are there services that the town provides that should be cut or scaled back to save money? Are there services the town should take on?

I do understand the importance of keeping taxes down but I balance that with the accountability of how those tax monies are spent. Taxation gives us the tool to pay for public services and keep the Island moving forward. I want to make sure those monies are being spent on services that benefit the whole Island. Now more than ever in these difficult times of cuts in revenue sharing, the cost of living increasing, salary cuts and work shortages, we must make sure our money is spent wisely and every penny is accounted for to ensure the services that attract the visitors and businesses that support our Island.

What other issue or issues are a high priority for the town in the term ahead?

I see the need for finalizing a Comprehensive Outdoor Recreational plan for our Island in order to qualify for and obtain grants by which the plans can be implemented. Without the plan, we are only on the outside looking in at missed funding opportunities. We need to take a summary of all of the surveys that have been taken to see in what direction the Island taxpayers would like go.

What is the number one thing the council can do to make the town a better place to live?

My goal is to work with the board as a whole so all of the board members who were elected by the people to that position have an opportunity to voice their opinion and be part of the decision making process. We will not always agree, but we will have the opportunity to be heard. I will also keep the supervisors advised of all issues and concerns important to the town so they may have an active role in decisions.

Carol A Stayton

Age: 60

Family: Married

Previous Elected Office: Town Supervisor

Relevant Experience/Civic Involvement: President, Washington Island Chamber of Commerce; Door County Tourism Zone Commissioner; Washington Island Ferry Line ticket agent; private business owner

Why are you the best choice for town chair?

Experience, knowledge and this – knowing that leadership is about knowing the issues, asking tough questions and finally, doing the homework necessary to be as prepared as possible. We’re elected or employed by this municipality to serve the public; we are not here in spite of the public. I believe we can do better in many areas but the most important one is focusing on priorities and what’s best for the community. The chairman sets the tone, the pace and the agenda, which has to keep the public interest as the priority.

Are there services that the town provides that should be cut or scaled back to save money? Are there services the town should take on?

The short answer is “yes.” Both things need to be done so that the town is more fiscally responsible, but to lay out a plan without input from the departments is not the way I prefer to operate. Example: We get billed from four phone service providers. Can we bundle services and achieve the same level of service?

Example: we spend thousands on supplies purchased individually; where can we use a bulk purchase approach to get what we need and save? The taxpayers are shopping and comparing prices and they’re doing with less. Municipalities need to do the same since they’re working out of the taxpayers wallet.

The real challenge for a town board is agreeing on the goal to review what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. When you question the status quo, those entrenched in those systems are not likely to want to review how things are going. So the biggest issue is getting departments to work on the same goal and see the bigger picture and obligation. The approach has to be based on what the priorities are and not politics.

What other issue or issues are a high priority for the town in the term ahead?

1. Fiscal management. We, like other municipalities, will be affected by decisions being made in Washington and Madison; no one really has all the facts right now. Our approach has been to rely on the fact our budget is in the black as a barometer that we’re doing well. The reality is that we’ve been shifting money from here to there in the budget, postponing projects for some time and avoiding the real questions that should be addressed. We need our departments in on the discussion in order to make the right things happen for our community; we have been unapologetic in excluding them from the problem solving process. Our budget increased by 3 percent; the County went up 8 percent. What has been improved; or are we just treading water? How is what we’re doing working and how can we change what isn’t working?

2. Communication. Communication is about listening and understanding the public need; the public is working in the dark because the board is working in a vacuum. Our town board communication toolbox is empty; we currently rely on meetings, and of course the gossip chain, for communication. It’s not up to the town board to decide whether or not the public reads the information but to make sure the information is available. I believe we can do better with a monthly blip in the newspapers like the Observer and the Pulse. A monthly on-line newsletter is a possibility not yet explored but should be. When it comes to insuring that our residents know what is going on, how we’re using their money, what challenges or opportunities we have here, our town board has a lot of room for improvement.

Here’s something that affects all taxpayers and residents and has been raised for some time. Recently the town board was asked to accommodate the auditor’s schedule and again have the Annual Meeting at 2 pm. Please understand that we’re not required to have the auditor present at the meeting; we are required by statute that we have an audit. We have in the past, and will continue to make, copies of the audit available to the public both on line and in hard copy form. Here are the issues:

– Most taxpayers just want to see how the money they approved 16 months earlier was used by the board to run the business of their town. A financial statement serves that purpose and we have the capability of providing it. Instead we’re putting an audit report in front of residents, which doesn’t address their issue.

– We have a group of working residents who are taxpayers who are unable to attend a meeting at 2 pm.

What I believe is missing is who and what the town board should be focused on here. The taxpayers, their money and a time that is reasonable for most people to attend. I’m disappointed to say that our Annual Meeting will be at 2 pm again this year.

3. The town board needs to focus on the right debate strategy when it comes to economics and developing what we have and incorporating new ideas. We should cherish the fact that we are a town; one of the first and fundamentally people/taxpayer orientated systems in our democracy. We need short term and long-term ideas and solutions to keep our economy going without undermining our community’s financial future. We have opportunities which are being squandered because of politics, and that’s hurting this community in a number of ways. Focus on priorities and principals and not on personalities.