Open position only courthouse race this year
by Gregg Westigard
Register staff writer
SHELL LAKE – The County Clerk’s office is at the heart of local government, especially in an election year. When we go to the polls and cast a ballot, the easy of that process is the result of hours of work by the CountyClerk, working with the local electing crews. But the election duties, as important as they are only a part of the duties of a county clerk. County clerks are involved
in every aspect of county government. The smooth functioning of that office keeps all the other parts of county government going. And the County Clerk helps people get married.
Washburn County Clerk Lynn Hoeppner is retiring at the end of the year after working in the clerk office 22 years, the last six years as CountyClerk. The elected position is on the November ballot and two people, Jacque Avery and Lolita Olson are running for the position. The winner will start a four year term of office in January.
The first word out of a County Clerk’s mouth is elections. The election process has become increasingly complex and all the changes funnel through the clerk’s office. Voting machines, registration, photo id (yes one day, no the next) are all part of the new scene. The state Government Accountability Board, formerly called the Election Board, issues new regulations regularly (some clerks say daily]. The county clerk must put those new rules in force, working with the election officials in each of the county’s 25 towns, villages, and cities.
The voting machines must be programmed for each election. Paper ballots must be printed. Registration books must be prepared and complete. New rules on absentee and early voting must be known and understood. All local election workers must complete training. It is the duty of the County clerk to see that all of this is working correctly on election day. Adding to the fun has been the fact that recently Wisconsinhas gone from two election days, spring yearly and fall in the even numbered years, to three with the recalls. Since elections include primaries, that has meant six separate elections in 2012.
But there is more. The County clerk coordinates county government functions, issuing notices of county board and committee meetings, preparing the agenda, and recording and preserving the minutes of county board actions. Most county purchasing is done through the office and the clerk is responsible for purchase orders, credit card use and receipts, and distribution of supplies. The clerk is in charge of the maintenance of the county’s fleet of vehicles (except the Highway and Sheriff fleets). The clerk is involved in all land sales, including property descriptions photos of land to be auctioned off. The clerk’s office issues marriage licenses and DNR licenses.
All this is the job of the County Clerk and one full time deputy.
Candidate profiles are from in-person interviews October 8th. Avery is running as a Democrat, Olson as a Republican.
"I understand the job," Jacque Avery says. "I understand the duties, the responsibility, the dedication. I am running to serve the public, to help the people."
Avery has worked for Washburn County for 30 years, including 22 years in the zoning office where she is the Assistant Zoning Administrator. That job takes her to every corner of the county doing soil testing, home and sanitary inspections. She says she has been on back roads she didn’t know were roads.
Avery says her job also includes working with the county government and the governing committee that oversees her department. That includes being familiar with committee resolutions and minutes, public hearings on land issues, and department budgets. She says she has worked lots with the county board members and has seen the big turnover on the board. Avery says her familiarity with the county employees and the supervisors, as well as the work of the clerk’s office, will help her in the transition if elected.
Avery is a life long county resident. She lives in Bashaw where she has a hobby farm. In her spare time she is a pilot, trains horses and gives riding lessons to kids, is involved in animal rescue, and rides a Harley.
"I am experienced,"Lolita Olson says. "I have been involved in elections and in business. I know local government. I like to learn."
Olson has been the Gull Lake Clerk/Treasurer for six years. She started that position just at the start of the transition to electronic voting and has been involved in implementing all the new requirements. That includes selecting voting machines, setting up registration lists, seeing that the election workers receive the required training, programming the machines, and reporting the results.
All this has required working closely with the county clerk and the other 24 clerks, Olson says. She says she knows the election system. Olson says that over the years she got to know Hoeppner well and decided to run for the office when Hoeppner announced her coming retirement last year.
Olson’s town government duties also include budgeting, government operations, purchasing, and working with elected officials. She has set up a town web site and sends a town information letter with the taxes as a way to inform the residents. Olson also has a day job at W K Appliance where she has worked 16 years "doing everything". She says her work experience includes purchasing, accounting, planning, staff supervision and all the varied jobs of a small business.
Olson moved to Washburn County with as a youth and is a Spooner graduate. She says she likes going into new things and is now into winery. She also races pigeons.