Current mayor removed from Onalaska ballot due to mistake

Mayor Joe Chilsen will not appear on the April 5 mayoral ballot

There will only be one candidate on the ballot for Onalaska mayor this year due to a mishap over nominating papers.

Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen said he knows the rules and has gone through the process before, however, this time an error cost him a spot on the ballot.

Joe Chilsen has been mayor of Onalaska for the past four years and he said he is proud of what he and the city have accomplished.

“Getting movement on the waterfront, I think stopping the ATC badger coulee line and the tourism collaboration with the entire county,” said Chilsen.

Chilsen knows there is more to be done. However, his candidacy for a second term as mayor has hit a snag.

“I can no longer be put on the ballot,” said Chilsen.

In order to be on the ballot, a candidate has to submit nomination papers with at least 200 signatures from residents.

“Then once they submit the documents, it starts a three day process where we can file challenges to them,” said Cari Burmaster, Onalaska city clerk.

Chilsen’s opponent, Former Onalaska Common Council member Jack Pogreba, challenged his papers and a mistake was found.

“There were two pages that did not have his residence address in the top block of information so those signatures are automatically disqualified. That was 20 signatures alone so that dropped him down to 199 with just that one incident,” said Burmaster.

“It was a mistake by some of the people on my committee. However, I am ultimately to blame and I take full responsibility. It was an oversight on my part and I certainly should have known better,” said Chilsen.

Pogreba is now the only name on the ballot.
Chilsen does have the opportunity to appeal the decision. However, Burmaster said the decision will likely stand.

“I have been working with the Government Accountability Board to make sure we are doing everything we need to be doing so basically the decision handed down is the decision they would support anyways so I don’t anticipate we will be seeing that process,” said Burmaster.

If Chilsen wants to be mayor of Onalaska again, he only has one choice to make, whether to run as a write-in candidate or not.

“At this time I am still weighing my options,” said Chilsen.

Chilsen said he will decide whether or not to run as a write-in candidate within the next 48 to 72 hours.

There is no deadline for Chilsen to enter as a write-in candidate because he has already filled out all the paperwork needed to be considered a registered write-in candidate.

According to the city clerk, who has been on the job for almost 15 years, she has never had to deal with a challenge before but she said it’s a good learning experience for everyone involved.