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Marathon County Board size getting another look

The Marathon County Task Force on County Board Size will be hosting a listening session on Thursday to obtain public input regarding options on the size of the County Board of Supervisors.

The listening session will be held on Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. Members of the public can participate in-person at the Marathon County Courthouse Assembly Room or virtually through meeting technology that will be explained in the meeting notice. Citizens will be able to participate by going to the Marathon county website to gain access to the proceedings and to register to give comments.

A formal presentation will be given by members of the task force, after which the public will be able to provide comments.

If attending the meeting in person or virtually, comments will be taken at the time of the meeting. If not, you may comment by leaving a voice message at 715-261-1444 and also by leaving an email at

The comment period will be available from Nov. 12-27.

Marathon County has the largest County Board in the country at 38 members. In the past there have been efforts to reduce the size of the board.

Recently, in 2019, an effort to cut the board by half failed with a commitment to study the board size. Other counties have changed the size of their board after citizen-led referendums, internal evaluations on the size or as part of the process to modify districts reflecting the results of the census.

After the decennial census legislative districts are required to be redrawn to reflect changes in population to ensure equal representation.

In December 2019, the board of supervisors created the task force to determine the optimal number of Marathon County supervisory districts. In making this determination, the task force was asked to consider the expected impact of the proposed board size on: 1. The ability to attract well qualified candidates and to foster competitive elections.

2. The efficient functioning of county governance.

3. The cost of county government.

The task force has been meeting since June to: research literature on effective governance; collect information/data from other Wisconsin counties; evaluate whether the county’s current governance structure needs to be updated; estimate the financial impact of various options; predict the impact of any proposed change on expectations of time commitment and the ability of the county to interact effectively with the public; and predict how a new structure will change the number of candidates and how a change might impact groups often underrepresented such as women and minority group members.

Based on the results of their research into other counties, the task force has developed three options to be presented to the public for feedback. Comments received will then be evaluated by the task force in developing their recommendation on board size to the county board in December.

The three options which will be presented at the listening session are: reducing the size of the board to 27 members; reducing the size to 32 members; and maintaining the present size of the board at 38 members.

The charter creating the task force called for it to actively seek out public opinion on their suggestions and comments on board size. The rationale for each of the options will be presented at the Nov. 12 meeting.

The final decision on the size of the county board will be made by the board in February, and any change will impact districts in the 2022 election cycle.

For additional information, contact John Robinson, chair of the Task Force on County Board Size, at 715-212-2227 or by email at john.robinson@co.marathon. or contact Dave Mack, county planning manager, at 715-261-6043 or at dave.