By Shereen Siewert

A village of Weston trustee is laying out a plan that would change the way residents elect board members in the future.

Nate Fiene said the current system, where the top three vote-earners are elected as trustees, worked for many years but is no longer the right fit for Weston’s future.

Nate Fiene (contributed photo)

“As we continue to grow, it will become harder and harder for an entirely at-large Village Board to adequately represent the entirety of the Village’s citizenry in its wide-ranging interests,” Fiene said.

Fiene’s twin proposals are not the first time a village in Wisconsin has changed the way local elected officials are chosen. Menominee Falls in Waukesha County, for example, relies on an at-large seat system where candidates run for a specific seat and are elected by the village as a whole. Another example is in Ashwaubenon in Brown County, which elects its trustees by tying them to a pair of wards. Other municipalities that have made changes include Germantown in Washington County, Howard in Brown County, Mount Pleasant in Racine County, Pleasant Prairie in Kenosha County, and Plover in Portage County. 

His first proposal is to divide Weston into three equal districts, each with two trustees elected opposite years of each other. The Village President would be remain elected at-large.

“By implementing this district plan, neighborhood issues would be brought to the Board more effectively and efficiently,” Fiene said. “The roads in the Crestwood Acres neighborhood, where my family lives, had not been substantially addressed in twenty years.”

Fiene said that this plan would increase competition in local elections and hold elected officials more accountable.

“When a candidate runs for a trusteeship in Weston, as long as they finish in the top three, they win,” he said. “As a result, fewer and fewer people are interested in running because the same names keep winning every time.”

Fiene’s alternate proposal relies on at-large seating system. In this proposal, the board would remain an at-large body, but candidates would run for a seat number. Whoever won the most votes would win the seat, regardless of the number of candidates running for that seat. But that, Fiene said, has some drawbacks.

“Rather than bringing neighborhood problems to the Village Board for discussion and resolution with greater frequency, this would retain the at-large system,” Fiene said. “It would still be an improvement because a trustee voting against the will of the people would be selectively targeted by a challenging candidate.”

This item is for discussion and possible action at Weston’s Village Board meeting on at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 16. Both proposals are detailed in a memo embedded below.