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Govt-and-politics
No opponents to run against Mayor Mason and County Executive Delagrave

RACINE COUNTY — Racine Mayor Cory Mason and County Executive Jonathan Delagrave will both be unopposed on the April ballot. 

The filing deadline for candidates to run for local government offices was 5 p.m. Wednesday, and neither candidate had any opponents file to run against them. 

This will be Mason's first run for a full term as mayor. He was elected in a special election in October 2017, after former Mayor John Dickert left office in July 2017 to take a position as president and CEO of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. Mason's term began that November and runs through what would have been the end of Dickert's term, this April.

“I am honored to have earned the trust of our residents as I seek election to my first full term as mayor,” Mason stated.

During Mason’s term, the city has seen a surge of development as a result of the announced Foxconn advanced-manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant. Foxconn is also planning an innovation center in Downtown Racine.

Mason's administration has also focused on workforce development to meet Foxconn's demand for employees, and investment in housing and neighborhoods to attract to the city people who will be coming to the area.

“While there is still more work to be done, the city, with the help of our partners, has begun to move the needle in addressing our housing and workforce needs,” Mason stated. “I look forward to building on this momentum and am confident that, working together, we will make Racine the community of choice in southeastern Wisconsin.”

Before serving as mayor, Mason represented Racine in the State Assembly from 2006 until he resigned before taking the oath of office as mayor. His seat was filled through a special election in which Greta Neubauer, who formerly worked for Mason, was elected to represent the 66th Assembly District.

The mayor's term is for four years, with a $75,483.20 annual salary.

Delagrave unopposed

Delagrave is also likely going to remain in office, barring an unlikely successful write-in campaign, as he will run for his seat unopposed in the upcoming spring election.

The county executive's term runs for four years and has an annual salary of $109,232.

Delagrave was first elected county executive in 2015. Since then, he has been involved in several large projects in the county including helping to bring Foxconn Technology Group to Mount Pleasant.

“I’m going to be focused heavily to make sure that the project is successful for Racine County, successful for the taxpayer and ensure that we get what we contractually signed up for,” Delagrave said.

Aside from Foxconn, Delagrave’s administration has helped oversee the relocation of the Western Racine Service Center to Burlington and the absorption of the City of Burlington's dispatch center into the Racine County Communications Center, and helped build the S.C. Johnson Family Aquatic Center which opened this past summer in Pritchard Park.

In the likely chance that he is re-elected, Delagrave said he wants to focus more on child welfare.

“We’ve done some things proactively, but that’s just not sustainable,” Delagrave said. “We really have to come up with some creative solutions to make that sustainable and, more importantly, make sure that our kids who can’t be at home for whatever reason, have the best placement possible, so they feel safe and secure.”

Currently Delagrave is working with the Racine Unified School District to build a roughly $6 million sports complex at Pritchard Park, which was included in the 2019 county budget. The county plans for the park to be open to the entire county and other non-RUSD schools.

Although one might think running for re-election unopposed speaks to the strength of the candidate, Delagrave said he believes it “speaks volumes of the people that work for Racine County and the leadership on the County Board.”


Local
Weatherston looks to make Caledonia comeback after state Assembly stint

CALEDONIA — Tom Weatherston, a former Caledonia village trustee who is retiring from the State Assembly, hopes to return to a seat on the Village Board.

Weatherston, 68, is the only non-incumbent running for one of the three Village of Caledonia trustee positions that will be up for election April 2. He will be running against incumbent Jay Benkowski for the trustee No. 1 position.

The winner of that election will be elected to a two-year term with a yearly salary of $6,600.

“The reason I ran for state Assembly was to get jobs in the community,” said Weatherston, who was first elected as a Republican representative in November 2012. “I want to make sure the Village of Caledonia grows with (the rest of southeast Wisconsin).”

Weatherston is being replaced by Racine Unified School Board President Robert Wittke Jr., also a Republican, as District 62’s representative in the Assembly. Wittke said Wednesday that he will not seek re-election to the School Board.

The candidates

Benkowski has served on the Village Board since winning an elected seat in April 2017.

For one year from 2012-13, Weatherston served simultaneously as a village trustee and state representative, before turning his full attention to the Assembly. He served as a trustee from 2010-2013 and also served on the Caledonia Utility District Commission from 2011-13.

Weatherston has also served as a civil engineer in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Vietnam for a time, before coming to the greater Racine area.

He was born in Buffalo, N.Y., but moved to Caledonia in 1977 and has been there ever since.

“The people of Caledonia have always been exceedingly nice to me, made it home for me,” Weatherston said. “My heart has always been right here in Caledonia.”

Update: The format of Caledonia's trustee elections has been corrected.


Local
Wittke will not run for School Board re-election, no filers for his seat

RACINE — Robert Wittke Jr. will not run for re-election to the Racine Unified School District Board of Education, and no one else has filed to run for his seat representing District 9.

Wittke, currently the School Board president, was elected in November to represent the 62nd District in the state Assembly. That seat was previously held by Tom Weatherston, who decided not to run for re-election.

Wittke said he mulled over the decision for the past couple of weeks, after being approached by some supporters who wanted him to stay on the School Board. But ultimately, he decided against it.

“I have to devote time to my next elected office,” he said.

Wittke said when Assembly committee assignments were announced, it became clear to him that he wouldn’t have time to serve both governing bodies. He was appointed to serve on the Assembly’s education committee as well as be a member of the committees on college and universities, jobs and the economy, science and technology and vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Wittke said splitting his time between the two elected offices would not be fair to his constituents.

He said he believes his time on the School Board, which he was elected to in spring 2016, gave him a good frame of reference before moving on to consider education-related issues at the state level.

“I’ll never forget where I started,” Wittke said.

In Wittke’s eyes, one of the biggest accomplishments the board made during his time on it was bringing the employee handbook in line with state law. Changes had to be made to the handbook to bring the district into compliance with Act 10 which limited the collective bargaining power of public employees.

Wittke said other important steps forward in the past couple of years were the rollout of the district’s academy model at its three largest high schools and this year’s middle school transformation.

Coming back from ‘failing’

Wittke had been on the board for less than a year when the School District received a “fails to meet expectations” score on its state report card in fall 2016, putting it at risk of a state takeover of some schools and the possibility of some municipalities splitting off to form their own districts.

Wittke called that time a “deflating experience.”

But he counted one of the board’s biggest recent accomplishments as its work with the administration to turn things around after the failing grade. The district has been in the “meets few expectations” category in the two years since.

Wittke said he hopes that going forward, Unified will build on the foundation that is now in place, as he believes changes haven’t come quickly enough.

“I would like to see the district continue to embrace change,” he said.

No District 9 candidates

It is unclear how Wittke’s seat will be filled after his term is up in April, after no one filed to run for the District 9 seat, which covers the northern part of the district including Caledonia and Wind Point.

Wittke said the lack of interest in Unified board positions was “extremely disappointing” to him, especially when there is no shortage of people who voice opinions about the district at meetings and via email.

“We’re short of people who want to step up and be part of the solution,” Wittke said.

He made his decision not to run for re-election public after the filing deadline at 5 p.m. on Wednesday had passed.

Wittke said he believes anyone who is elected to the School Board will find it a rewarding job.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience for me,” he said.

Wittke said he was thankful to everyone who supported him during his time on the board and those who continue to do so through the end of his term in April.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience for me.” Robert Wittke Jr., Racine Unified School Board president

Wittke


Crime-and-courts
Follow-up
Kenosha DA assigned in Racine sergeant alleged hit-and-run crash

Stulo

Palmer

RACINE — The case of the Racine police sergeant reportedly involved in a drunken hit-and-run crash has been assigned to Kenosha County prosecutors.

Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson confirmed Wednesday that the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office has been assigned as the special prosecutor in the case of Racine Police Sgt. Samuel Stulo, a 16-year veteran of the force.

Stulo was cited for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, hit-and-run involving injury, inattentive driving, and refusing to take a test for intoxication after he allegedly crashed into an occupied parked vehicle on Dec. 17.

Stulo was then placed on administrative leave after the crash, which reportedly injured a 63-year-old woman in the vehicle that was struck.

The incident report states that Stulo asked for a lawyer after the crash and refused to submit to a blood draw until he spoke with his attorney. After a search warrant was obtained, Stulo’s blood was able to be collected at 10:42 p.m. — nearly two hours after the crash.

The Racine County Sheriff’s Office said results of the blood draw could take six to eight weeks, but a Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene official said that results could come in as little as two weeks.

The information about the case was obtained after The Journal Times received an anonymous tip and questioned Police Department officials 10 days after the incident occurred.

Shortly after that, Racine police issued a press release about the crash. The department did not reveal Stulo’s name in the release. However, his name was included in online court records and a Racine County Sheriff’s Office incident report.

Police procedure

Last week, Racine Police Chief Art Howell said “when officers face both internal investigations and potential criminal charges, it is protocol for criminal proceedings to proceed (and be concluded) in advance of the conclusion of internal investigations.

“This is the case so that information learned during the internal investigation (where officers are compelled to testify under Garrity warnings) do not cross-contaminate the criminal process (where all citizens have separate protections under Miranda rights).”

Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, confirmed that in situations such as these, police departments wait for legal proceedings to conclude before taking action.

“Anytime something happens to off-duty officers in particular, we let the criminal side run its course before imposing any kind of permanent type of discipline,” Palmer said.

Stulo’s initial court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 24 at the Racine County Law Enforcement Center, 717 Wisconsin Ave.


Pete Wicklund /   

Wanggaard


Weatherston


Pete Wicklund /   

Prott


Jonathan Brines /   

Benkowski


 

Stulo