Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Landmarks Commission loses chair to ordinance

By: Adam Wise//July 8, 2011//

Landmarks Commission loses chair to ordinance

By: Adam Wise//July 8, 2011//

Listen to this article

By Adam Wise

Madison’s change in leadership this year is hitting home for longtime Landmarks Commission member Daniel Stephans, who likely will chair his final meeting Monday after a decision from Mayor Paul Soglin that he’s no longer eligible to fill that role.

“The mayor has appointed a replacement for me because I have an address outside Madison,” said Stephans, who is in the process of leaving his home in the city for one in Evansville, a community about 25 miles south of Madison. He has been on the commission for nearly a decade.

City ordinance states individuals serving on commissions must be city of Madison residents.

Stephans, who works for the division of state facilities at the state Department of Administration, fills the role of a registered architect on the citizen commission.

Before his term was set to expire in April, Stephans told then-Mayor Dave Cieslewicz of his plans to leave the board because he’d be a nonresident of Madison before the end of a new three-year term. Cieslewicz said he didn’t care about the pending address change, and requested Stephans remain on the seven-member panel.

But that changed in April when Soglin took office.

“When you’re making decisions which affect everything from major neighborhood developments to profound impacts on tax levy and expenditures, I think it’s very important that it be a city resident making those decisions,” Soglin said. “As far as I know, every mayor of the city going back to the 1960s has held fairly firm on this rule. If Dave didn’t, that was the exception.”

Soglin could’ve found a way around the ordinance if he wanted, but chose not to, he said.

“There is an exception that if somebody has a very special skill set you can’t find elsewhere in the community, then you can appoint somebody outside of Madison,” Soglin said. “In this instance, we have people who have the skill set.”

Fellow Commissioner Stuart Levitan said losing Stephans would be a big blow to the group.

“I’m tremendously disappointed,” Levitan said. “I don’t remember an issue that’s come up that he hasn’t known all the details. He’s the most knowledgeable person in the room, and that’s always a good thing to have on your side.”

Soglin made his decision official this month when he announced Stephans’ replacement as David McLean, an architect for InSite Consulting Architects in Madison. McLean’s tenure on the commission will become official if Common Council members approve the switch in a vote scheduled for July 19.

McLean did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

While appointing nonresidents to commissions can be a touchy subject, Commissioner Robin Taylor, a licensed Realtor, said she wished Soglin would have better weighed the pros and cons of removing Stephans.

“It’s a city commission and decisions will affect the city, so I guess it makes sense to have a resident, but on the other hand, it makes sense to have somebody who has the expertise and the kind of knowledge Dan does,” Taylor said. “It’s a wonderful resource; it’s a waste of that resource.”

While he would’ve continued serving if asked, Stephans said, he doesn’t oppose Soglin’s opinion.

“I believe that you have qualified individuals within the city and they should be on the city’s commission and boards,” Stephans said. “You shouldn’t have out-of-towners serving; I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the city.”

Alderwoman Marsha Rummel, who represents the Common Council on the Landmarks Commission, respects Soglin’s decision, but also disagrees, she said.

“You are weighing two different values,” Rummel said. “Is it more important to have somebody in the city of Madison or to have special talents that are given to use free on a biweekly basis? Over time, some people add something unique; Dan should’ve stayed.”


Is the labor shortage getting:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Today’s News

See All Today's News

Project Profiles

See All Project Profiles