RACINE — Racine Unified School Board member John Heckenlively was still working on Wednesday morning to find a place to live that’s within the school district.

Heckenlively has passed his self-imposed deadline to find a residence in the district by the end of last week, but it doesn’t seem that living outside the district technically disqualifies him from serving on the board.

Although Unified’s Board President Brian O’Connell cautioned that he’s no legal expert, he does not believe Heckenlively’s residence in Franklin stops him from continuing to represent Unified’s District 6.

“There is nothing that says you lose your seat because you moved out of the district and that’s both in the state statutes that govern school boards and in our own bylaws,” O’Connell said.

Heckenlively moved out of the school district in April due to financial difficulties. He’s now living with his mother in Franklin.

Heckenlively was first elected to represent District 6, which covers the Downtown area, in 2016 and was re-elected in April 2018.

When The Journal Times spoke with Heckenlively last Friday, he was in the process of being approved for an apartment near the Racine Public Library, 75 Seventh St., within District 6.

Heckenlively was still waiting for confirmation from the landlord as of Wednesday morning.

“If I get the apartment, I’ll be back in Racine and I’ll stay,” Heckenlively said. “It’s contingent on that.”

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He plans to move back to Racine immediately upon securing the apartment.

“We have been proceeding cautiously, speaking as board president,” O’Connell said. “If John resumes residence in his district, then the issue goes away. If he can’t, as I said before, he should probably resign because he is certainly not in the spirit of representing his district when he’s not residing there.”

The rules

Living outside the district might not be in the spirit of true representation, but state law only says that a candidate running for school board must be a resident of the apportioned area he or she is looking to represent at the time of taking office. State law also says that the candidate must be a qualified elector of the district in which they are running, meaning they’ve resided in the district for 10 consecutive days before any election.

O’Connell said he’s watching the situation closely, but said it would be difficult for the School Board to decide to oust someone from office who had been justly elected, and to temporarily leave District 6 without representation.

“His attendance is actually good,” O’Connell said. “He hasn’t abandoned his district in terms of representing them.”

O’Connell said he does not want to see Heckenlively lose his post and added that he hopes the situation is resolved soon. However, O’Connell added that he believes Sept. 1 will be a key date when it comes to this situation as most leases begin on the first of the month.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission leaves it up to the board on which the elector serves to decide what to do in cases where a school board representative moves out of district after being elected.

In Photos: Horlick Class of 1969 50-year reunion

Alumni of Horlick High School's class of 1969 returned to Racine to tour the school along with participating in many other activities throughout the weekend. 

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Alumni of Horlick High School's class of 1969 returned to Racine to tour the school along with participating in many other activities througho…

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Reverend Bruce Loewenhagen, who now lives in Wanukee, tries his luck at the combination of his old locker, during a tour during Horlick High S…

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Dick Schliesmann, right, and Pat Marinac, left, Horlick High School alumni from the Class of 1969 take a look at what is now the weight room d…

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Aaron Wheaton, an alumni of Horlick High School in the class of 1969 tours the school during its 50-year reunion, August 3, 2019.

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Alumni of Horlick High School read the names of deceased members of the Class of 1969 as a bench outside the school is dedicated to them Satur…

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The Rev. Bruce Loewenhagen, center, a 1969 Horlick High School grad who now lives in Waunakee, dedicates a bench outside Horlick to the 101 de…

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Caitlin Sievers covers cops, crime and the west-end communities. She's a lover of cats, dance and Harry Potter. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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