Howard backs redistricting map with 19 wards
By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – The Village Board agreed on a redistricting map for the next 10 years as similar as possible to the current map at its Oct. 10 meeting.
The board directed staff to bring back an ordinance amendment for approval Oct. 25 to adopt the new map.
It was the first of three redistricting plans presented by Director of Administrative Services Chris Haltom.
Board members recommend a design with 19 wards in the Brown County portion of the village to conform to redistricting following the 2020 census.
“We’d have three trustees with three wards, (due to the county boundaries and census block sizes),” Haltom said. “But, it would get the populations about the same that are represented, and this would be (the) most similar to what we have today. So, trustees would have most of the same area that they have today, as much as they can.”
The Brown County Board late last month put together a new map for the county’s 26 supervisory districts, of which Howard will be divided into all of District 23 and portions Districts 24 and 26, effective in 2022.
Haltom said the county had to draw its supervisory districts first before the village approved new ward boundaries with not less than 600 nor more than 1,200 people per ward, because ward boundaries may not cross over county district lines.
“We do have five wards that grew in population much bigger, much faster than the rest of the village,” he said. “Wards 7, 8, 11, 13 and 15… they have to shrink in size, and the others basically have to grow bigger, and they also have to grow westward – just the way that the demographics are working.”
With the plan recommended by the board, population figures show three of the eight trustee seats – currently held by Cathy Hughes, Ray Suennen and Scott Beyer – would represent more people than the targeted 2,500 person average with village population at 19,950.
The seat held by John Muraski, who represents Wards 7 and 8, would have the lowest population at 2,280, with the area to be represented in the seat held by Beyer (Wards 9, 10 and 15) having the most people at 2,736.
Haltom said a second plan with only 16 wards (two per trustee seat) would have reduced the number of trustees on the eastern portion of the village from five to four.
He said it was intended to make elections easier in Howard by minimizing the trustees’ wards being split in more than one ballot style for county elections.
“From an administration side, it would be easier to administer elections using this map,” he said. “The downside to this map is we would add a trustee race (between two incumbents), because we have five trustees living on the eastern portion, or in District 23 of the county, and it would shrink down to four… Basically, it’s going to be Trustee Suennen, either against Trustee Hughes or Trustee (Maria) Lasecki, depending on how we move the line on Ward 2.”
Haltom said the third plan with 24 wards would give every trustee three wards to represent, but would result in drastically different wards.”
“Voters would have a different ward in this map, so we’d be notifying a lot of people with this map of their ward changes, where they would vote, what their ward number is, all those sorts of things,” he said.
Trustees expressed support for the first plan to maintain familiarity with the people they represent.
“In the village, I’m familiar with X ward – I’m from here, this is where I go, this is where I vote, even when things change – so, there’s some continuing of that, versus a wholesale change,” Trustee Chris Nielsen said. “I also, being from Wards 3 and 4, you start building connections within your local area and start building some – I don’t want to use the word friendship – but you start knowing who people are and who you lean on a little bit for some things. I think there’s a continuation for the constituent to the trustee to the village as whole.”
When Trustee Adam Lemorande asked about whether Howard could have trustees run at-large instead of representing a portion of the village, as is the practice in Suamico, Haltom said Howard would still be required to have a ward map, even with at-large elections.
“There’s pros and cons to whether you represent an area or you represent the entire village,” Haltom said.
Village Administrator Paul Evert said at-large elections would result in “making the ward maps really easy, if no one’s worried about where they’re representing.”
Trustee Craig McAllister said it’s a hard task for staff to put together a ward map, for which the primary concern should be the voter.
“Maybe we should worry less about how we (as trustees) fall in place and more about the bigger picture of what we’re supposed to be doing, and that’s to help the voter,” he said.
Overall, McAllister said he favored a plan that “would actually make the most sense on Election Day, because that’s what this is truly about.”
Village President Burt McIntyre said he favored the first plan, “because it maintains, to some extent, the status quo.”
“Plan one, I think, will make people feel a lot more comfortable in the future,” he said.
The ordinance amendment to adopt the redistricting map was approved Oct. 25 as part of the board’s consent agenda.