Primary Election Preview: Waukesha County Clerk
Tuesday's primary election is among three area candidates – Kathleen Novack, Kathleen Karalewitz and Gina Kozlik – who look to be Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus' successor.
The three candidates running for the Waukesha County clerk’s post on the Republican ticket all want to see election night result reporting improved while restoring public trust and confidence in the office.
Election night snafus are well documented in the clerk’s office. Under intense scrutiny, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus decided she was no longer running for the seat. Meanwhile, costs to fix election-related problems in the office are exceeding $250,000.
Delayed unofficial vote reporting is among problems. But the biggest problem was in the April 2011 State Supreme court election when Nickolaus mistakenly left out tallies from the entire city of Brookfield in unofficial results reporting to the Associated Press on election night.
The error flipped the winner in the razor-thin election from then-Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, who had declared victory, to incumbent Justice David Prosser.
Whoever wins Tuesday’s primary election still has to make it through the November election. Democratic candidate Jessie Read is also seeking election to the office in the predominantly Republican county.
Karalewitz, 51, is currently the clerk/treasurer and administrator for the Town of Mukwonago. She’s worked in government since graduating from Waukesha South High School, holding positions with Waukesha County, Menomonee Falls and Town of Waukesha. Having served as deputy clerk in the Waukesha County clerk’s office, she called for uniformed equipment and the ability for municipalities to send results into the county electronically.
In the 21st century, there are technologies available to reduce the problems in the county clerk’s office, she said.
“I can restore the integrity of the election process in this county,” said Karalewitz. “I have done the job before.”
Karalewitz said she plans to work with the Waukesha County executive’s office and the County Board to make that happen. She also realizes the clerk’s office is tasked with other responsibilities, such as ordinances, open records and marriage and dog licenses.
“There is a lot of things that go into this job, not just elections, but it is elections at the forefront,” Karalewitz said.
Because she’s been involved in municipal government for many years, she feels she will have a step up on other candidates when it comes to a “learning curve” for being in office. Karalewitz’s ready to hit the ground running “because I already know it,” she said.
“I will work tirelessly, and I mean tirelessly,” Karalewitz said. “It will be a lot of work. I am committed to the electors of this county to make sure we have election equipment we can trust like we had years ago.”
Kozlik, 45, the deputy clerk/treasurer in the City of Waukesha for four years, worked for years as a paralegal throughout the area, including as a court supervisor in the civil branch in the Waukesha County Circuit Court.
Kozlik was the last to enter the race, but she said she wanted to make sure seeking the clerk’s seat was the right thing for her and her family.
“I had been thinking about it for sometime,” she said. “Doing the job is what drove me to run, because I felt I was the person to do it. I knew there were ther aspects, time involved campaigning, and I had to split my time doing my job for the city.”
Improved result reporting will the number one priority for the clerk, Kozlik said.
In addition to running elections for the biggest municipality in the county, Kozlik also works with billing Waukesha residents and business owners for the taxes, including collections for installments of the taxes. She touted her work in government, with databases and managing staff members in addition to her election experience.
“That needs to get squared away pretty quickly,” Kozlik said. “I don’t think it will be that difficult. The municipal clerk’s have been putting the results in, and that has been working well.”
Kozlik said her only concern is the need for enhancements using the Government Accountability Board’s website. Additionally, she realizes the need to work with the county’s Information Technology Department to provide secure election results.
“It is going to be a team effort,” said Kozlik, who plans to work with all the departments in the county, including with budgets and getting verification processes in place.
Novack, 61, a City of Pewaukee alderwoman who holds a master’s degree from DePaul University described herself as an outsider in the county clerk’s race. She’s worked for decades dealing with federal and state tax statutes, having been employed by the IRS before her retirement in 2003. Working out of the Midwest appeals office, she held high-level positions such as chief of the appeals office.
Novack said because she’s an outsider, she doesn’t have any preconceived ties to any groups working to elect candidates into office.
“Coming in with a fresh, total new start in the office is a real advantage,” Novack said.
The increased publicity of election night vote reporting problems lead to Novack’s decision to run for county clerk. Working with the public and the media to restore trust in the office will be a priority, she said.
“I felt there was a definite need for a new county clerk with all the problems we are having,” Novack said. “I had the really strong credentials and background to come in and work to make those improvements.”
Whoever is elected as county clerk will have a lot of work to do, she said.
“I bring a very unique combination of experience and educational credentials that really match what I see as the challenge of the job,” Novack said. “I think you need somebody that is not just able to run the internal pieces of a clerk’s office but is also able to work well in collaboration with the county executive’s office, with the county board, with other elected officials. That is a lot to be able to do that.”
Public Support Lies With Karalewitz, Kozlik
In the battle for the Republican nomination, high-profile names have been weighing in on the race. Karalewitz has received support from several high-profile county Kozlik’s been endorsed by the Menomonee Falls Taxpayer Association.
They’ve both received letters to the editor on their behalf; however, one was generally anti-Karalewitz.
If you want to submit a letter to the editor, upload it here.
Letters to the Editor – Karalewitz
- Karalewitz is Clear Choice for County Clerk
- Karalewitz’ Experience Perfect for County Clerk
- Support Karalewitz for County Clerk
- Support Karalweitz for County Clerk Primary Election
Letters to the Editor – Kozlik
Patch asked each candidate to complete a biographical questionnaire for voters.