The Wisconsin Towns Association (WTA) is a statewide, voluntary, non-profit and non-partisan association of member town and village governments. Towns are explicitly authorized to “[a]ppropriate money to purchase membership in any association of town boards for the protection of town interests and improvement of town government.” Wis. Stat. § 60.23(14). Our mission reads:

“A statewide association providing education, legal information and grassroots legislative advocacy to empower and inspire our members to lead in their communities.”

Education

WTA provides a wide array of learning opportunities on pertinent topics for town officials.  Beginning in the winter, we hold 15 all day District Meetings throughout the state. January also includes our Agriculture Community Engagement (ACE) workshops. These are one-day seminars conducted in partnership with the Wisconsin Counties Association and the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin that are focused on increasing relationships and collaborative understanding of both local government and the dairy industry. During the month of May in odd numbered years, when most town officials are elected, we partner with the UW-Extension Local Government Center to conduct 9 trainings for newly elected and also veteran town officials. We also partner with them to provide 9 more workshops on a variety of different topics, with a fair amount of emphasis on budget and finance, in September of each year. WTA also collaborates on a series of different WisLine programs with the Local Government Center. August finds us on the farm at our ACE Twilight meetings that are centered on four farm visits in different locations. October brings our three day Annual Convention, our premier learning event of the year. We also provide workshops on contemporary topics on an ad hoc basis.

In addition to these regional learning opportunities, WTA staff frequently travel to provide customized education to all of the towns in a county at what we call a “county unit” meeting. Members can also access of plethora of great information in our monthly magazine, on our website, through our on-line videos, via our DVD videos, and by reading the Town Officer Handbook.

Legal Information

All elected and appointed officials of member governments are welcome to contact the WTA for general legal information relayed in a one-on-one fashion by one of our three attorneys. These calls are for educational purposes only and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship. We pride ourselves on same-day return service nearly every business day of the year. We do not represent individual towns and your town attorney is an essential component of town operations. Additionally, WTA’s staff attorneys examine requests for WTA to join ongoing cases as an amicus curiae party and also collaborate on an annual conference for town attorneys and others that might be interested in the town law field.

Legislative Advocacy

WTA routinely informs legislators and agency officials at the state and federal levels about the town perspective on proposed legislation, administrative rules, and policy that impacts town citizens and government. We also attempt to influence the aforementioned actors into implementing our legislative agenda. The legislative agenda is formed by membership during the summer and fall of even numbered years via a number of tools, including county unit resolutions, a series of statewide legislative listening sessions, the Town Advocacy Council (TAC), and the Board of Directors.

The Town Advocacy Council is a collection of over 100 leading towns that is governed by a nine member board. Their mission statement is “Advocating for Legislation that Advances Town Government Interests” and they pride themselves on being “Champions of Town Government”. Membership in the TAC is separate from WTA dues and is $0.25 per person (per town population) with a cap of $2,500. A vast majority of WTA legislative advocacy is funded through TAC memberships. Without these leading towns, WTA would not be able to be as active or successful in attempting to influence policy makers. In today’s political environment that includes constant attacks on the ability of local government to govern themselves and unyielding attempted grabs of power by Madison and Washington, investing in WTA lobbying is increasingly important. In addition to the pride of investing in making a legislative difference, TAC members also receive free on-line videos, free weekly federal legislative updates, a free Town Officer’s handbook, and reduced registration fees at TAC workshops.

The TAC not only sponsors the legislative listening sessions noted above and special lobbying related workshops, they also coordinate Capitol Day. During Capitol Day, held in the late winter/early spring of odd numbered years, town officials descend on Madison to engage in citizen lobbying aimed at influencing successful achievement of our legislative agenda.

At the federal level, WTA partners with thousands of other towns in many other states through the National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT). NATaT works through its Board of Directors and federal lobbying team to influence Washington lawmakers. The WTA Executive Director is currently one of seven board members that govern NATaT.

WTA Governance

WTA is governed by a 12 member Board of Directors. There are two Board members from each of the 6 Districts. Each District is comprised of approximately the same number of county units, which are a collection of all of the member town and village officials in each county. Each county unit elects a county unit chair that represents that county’s towns and villages in electing the two Board members from each District. The Board elects their own leadership.

WTA Membership

Any Wisconsin Town or Village is eligible for membership in the WTA. Individual members include town chairpersons and supervisors and elected or appointed clerks, treasurers, or clerk/treasurers combined (who are residents of a town or village in the county). The following town officials can become Class A affiliate members: administrators, staff planners or zoning administrators; planning commission members; firefighters; law enforcement; sanitary district commissioners and sanitary district administrators; highway superintendents; election board workers and poll workers; sanitarians; building inspectors; former elected town and village officials; elected assessors; deputy officers; park commissioners; staff accountants/bookkeepers; elected and appointed county officials; and elected constables. Town vendors and other partners can become Class B affiliate members, such as, attorneys; engineers; architects, planners; insurance companies; accountants; assessors; highway contractors; chambers of commerce; and economic development corporations. Affiliate members receive a copy of the monthly magazine and are eligible to attend all WTA events.

WTA Vision & Values

The vision of the WTA is:

“A respected, collaborative association that provides the keys to protect and engage the power of town decision making and unlocking the potential of democracy.”

This one sentence summarizes how by providing education, legal information, and legislative advocacy we strive to provide the keys to town officials so they can leverage the power of their very own local decision making. It is this local decision making, not mandates from some far away government in Madison or Washington, which the founding generation knew was critical in unlocking the potential of democracy.

Our values are summarized as:

Our passion for local decision making and entrepreneurship drives quality service provision to our members. Our dedication is derived from and a catalyst for a trust based environment fueled by:

Character –
Doing the right thing and fixing the wrong.

Teamwork – None of us is as good as all of us.

Diversity of Thought – Be creative, think outside the box, and take calculated risks.


About the Logo

Wisconsin:
We are a statewide association.

Red:
The color red recognizes the roots of the Native Americans and pioneers that coined our state’s name. “Wisconsin” comes from a Miami Indian word “Meskonsing”, meaning “a river runs through a red place”. Without the success of a diversity of ancestors over many centuries, towns could not be successful today.

WTA:
This acronym is tilted forward, communicating that the association is moving ahead and leading. The “W” is connected to the “T” which is connected to the “A”. Wisconsin’s success is intricately connected to the success of the people, economies, environments, and governments in towns. The success of towns is dependent upon and connected to the success of the association.

Red, White, and Blue:
Collectively, these colors remind us of the flag of the United States of America and that towns are part of something bigger. The colors of the flag are consistent with the colors of the Great Seal of the United States of America that Congress specifically noted as having great symbolic meaning. White signifies purity and innocence; red, hardiness and valor; blue, vigilance, perseverance, and justice. Town officials are hardy, salt of the earth people who have pure intentions to unlock the power of democracy and will vigilantly persevere in the perpetual battle to implement our founders’ vision.

Three Stars:
The founders’ vision is captured in the three stars, which together have two meanings. First, they communicate towns’ role in a federal republic. The founders’ intended for the federal government to have limited powers (the smallest star) and for state governments to have more authority and be the laboratories of democracy (the medium star). One authority of the state was to create local government. Wisconsin was designed to have many local governments because of the state’s founders’ belief that local control and entrepreneurialism is paramount and this is where the most authority should lie (the largest star). Second, the three stars represent the association’s three part mission.