In the few weeks after the April 2 elections, the Door County Board of Supervisors spent some time readjusting, reorganizing and orienting newly elected members. There were a few new faces on the floor, as four supervisors did not run for re-election in their districts. 

At the first regular meeting of its new term Tuesday, the County Board voted against putting a Pride month proclamation request from Open Door Pride on the May agenda for discussion and possible action. Open Door Pride is a volunteer organization started in 2017 that represents the LGBTQIA+ and ally communities in Door County.

Among the former supervisors who did not seek re-election was former board chair David Lienau. Lienau was the supervisor for District 19 that represents parts of Baileys Harbor, Liberty Grove, Ephraim and Sister Bay. Lienau served as chair of the board since 2016 and had been on the board since 2014.

Additionally, no one filed candidacy papers for Lienau’s open seat. If a County Board supervisor seat has no candidates, the seat is offered to the person with the highest number of write-in votes. Patrick Voight received four of 28 write-in votes for Lienau’s District 19 seat. 

No one else received more than two, giving Voight the position upon his acceptance. A Sister Bay resident, Voight lost a bid for the Gibraltar Area School District school board in 2022 and has no municipal public office experience. 

Voight is not the only write-in candidate joining the board. Collin Jeanquart won four of 14 write-in votes cast for District 8, which covers parts of the City of Sturgeon Bay. Jeanquart, who lives in Sturgeon Bay, also accepted the seat and is another newcomer to local government. 

An organizational meeting on April 16 was spent in orientation and designating supervisors’ appointments to committees, commissions and sub-boards. Supervisors also elected a County Board chair and vice-chair from within their ranks. Supervisor David Englebert is the new chair, and Supervisor Todd Thayse is the vice chair. Englebert was the previous board vice chair, and he served on the board from 1992 to 2004 and returned in 2016. This is Thayse’s third term. 

Orientation included introduction to and overviews of the county organizational chart, legal considerations, the County Clerk’s office and finances. It continued the following week during Tuesday’s regular County Board meeting, where all of the county department heads made brief presentations about their departments.

Open Door Pride requests Pride month proclamation

Cathy Grier spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting. Grier is chair and a founding member of Open Door Pride.

Grier was on hand to address the board about a request from the organization. The request, included in the packet and dated April 6, was that the County Board issue a proclamation that June be declared “Open Door Pride Month” in support of the local LBGTQIA+ community, according to Grier.

Grier said she had hoped the request would be on Tuesday’s meeting agenda as a discussion and possible action item. She also referenced Sister Bay, Baileys Harbor and the city of Sturgeon Bay, which all issued proclamations to designate June 2023 as “Open Door Pride Month”. 

“We are not here to ask you to fly the Pride flag,” Grier said, referring to the board’s decision in September to adopt a resolution that limits flag display on county flag poles, and resulted in the Pride flag not being allowed to be flown on county flag poles.

“Words have power,” Grier said. “The strength of our community lies in how our elected officials collectively represent us.”

District 18 Supervisor Vinni Chomeau, who represents parts of Gibraltar and Ephraim, made a motion under the new business portion of the meeting to add the proclamation request from Open Door Pride to the County Board agenda for the May meeting. The motion was seconded by Nissa Norton, supervisor for District 12 representing parts of the City of Sturgeon Bay. 

“It’s an act of democracy to be able to place something on an agenda and the board to take it up as discussion,” Chomeau said during discussion of the motion. “Public good is our responsibility regardless of our moral or religious beliefs.”

“Less harm is done and more care is given when we lead with acceptance,” she added. “This is part of community health improvement. Acceptance equals mental wellness and less social isolation.”

Englebert, who as District 1 supervisor represents parts of Union and Brussels, responded that he had not planned to include it on the agenda after Chomeau approached him about it at the April 16 organizational session. 

“We are just starting out as new members to this board,” Englebert said. “It has been a divisive issue in the past. … There is a wide variance of opinion around the community, but the motion is on the floor.”

Thayse, who as District 2 supervisor represents the Village of Forestville and parts of Brussels and the Town and Forestville, also commented during discussion.

“I want all the county members to understand that whether you vote positively or negatively for this it doesn’t mean that you are in any kind of an argument with the LGBTQ community or any of those kinds of things.” Thayse said. “Oftentimes we think about whether or not it is the business of the county to do things like this. There are so many groups that could come forward with proclamations and those types of things. There are plenty of places in the county that certainly do observe these types of things.”

Chomeau disagreed. “This is an opportunity for the entire board to have an opinion on this and discuss it in the main meeting and vote on it,” she said. “It is responsible to our constituents to be represented in that discussion.”

The motion failed with eight in favor and 10 against. Three supervisors were absent. 

“When our elected officials can express how they feel, it lets constituents know what position they have,” Grier said in a phone interview following the meeting. She also said she viewed it as progress that the request made it into the board packet and that she had an opportunity to speak in the meeting.

“We’re used to when we ask for proclamations like this, that it doesn’t see the light of day,” Grier said. “We send these out to municipalities every year. We are changing hearts and minds slowly and surely. I’m happy we had eight votes for it.”

In addition to Open Door Pride, there is Northern Door Pride, and the two organizations often work cooperatively, Grier said. As far as designating June “Open Door Pride” versus just “Pride” month, Grier said the “open door” phrasing is a play on words to signify countywide inclusion, and the idea is not limited to the organization she leads.