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Kenosha County Primary Election: County Executive

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Samantha Kerkman, Jerry Gulley, and Rebecca Matoska-Mentink

The Kenosha County Executive is a non-partisan position elected by county residents every four years at the spring general election. The county executive is responsible for most administrative and management functions of county government.

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The most important part of the county executive’s job is preparing the annual county budget for the County Board of Supervisors. The budget is presented in the fall of each year and covers road construction and maintenance, E-911, law enforcement, fire and emergency management, county parks and golf courses and other county operations.

The county executive also appoints and supervises county department heads. The executive also appoints the non-elected members to all the boards and commissions who are then subject to confirmation by the county board.

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If you live in Kenosha County, you have two chances to vote for County Executive – February 15, 2022 and April 5th. After the primary, only two candidates will face each other head to head. We sent questionnaires to the three candidates and their responses are below. The order in which they are displayed was selected randomly.

Samantha Kerkman

Samantha Kerkman

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Click here for Bio Information Submitted by Candidate
Click here for Candidate Website

What are your three biggest accomplishments in your elected position?

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Some of the work I’m most proud of is that which was accomplished during my tenure on and as the Co-Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. In addition to the core responsibility of passing laws, the Legislature is a check on the executive branch of government. Auditing the finances of agencies and their administration of programs and services helps limit risk and reduces instances of waste, fraud, and mismanagement, ultimately protecting taxpayers. The Foodshare Audit which identified patterns of fraudulent activity, the Unemployment Initial Claims Processing Audit which showed a dedicated small percentage of recipients intentionally defrauding the system and the subsequent legislation to penalize the criminal activity, and both the 2014 and 2020 Unemployment Call Centers audits that led to dramatic improvements are highlights of this oversight work. See the searchable Audit Bureau website for a comprehensive view of these efforts over the last decade plus. 

Secondly, my work on legislation has prioritized protecting the vulnerable and supporting our working families while protecting the taxpayer. I authorized the Locker Room Privacy Act creating enhanced penalties for hidden-camera crimes where children are involved, and the Shaken Baby Act providing education to curb injuries to infants at the hands of parents and caregivers. A perceived error in equalized values would have cost the taxpayers of Twin Lakes  an unwarranted increase in their property taxes – I authored legislation to hold taxpayers harmless while DOR corrected their mistake and followed up with a bill to prevent that type of scenario from happening going forward.  

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Finally, economic development and job creation has been a top priority. Building on this success, I’ll be focusing on workforce training and employee retention.  I will continue to support the collaboration between UW Parkside, Gateway Technical College, Carthage College and Herzing University to educate and train the next generation of workers.  Since 2013, over 12,300 new jobs have been added to the county, with more coming.  I’m proud that I have worked together with federal, state and local leaders to help create a business friendly environment for small, medium and large businesses to thrive in Kenosha County. In addition, we need to work closely with the housing industry and local governments for opportunities for additional housing inventory for seniors and families.  

What do you hope to accomplish in your first 6 months as county executive?

I will continue the collaborative work fostered by the Council of Governments meetings and implement listening sessions in advance of the budget. I will work together with members on the county board to build on ways to deliver services and build on our assets. One of the concerns I’ve heard from county board members is they were not included earlier in the development of the county budget. I will include the chairs of the standing committees and include board members and department heads to develop and pass a budget that protects taxpayers, builds on our successes, and facilitates more opportunities for high-quality services for the hardworking people of Kenosha County. 

Please explain how your past elected experience has qualified you to be county executive.

As a State Assembly Representative, I bring over 20 years of experience collaborating with federal, state, and local leaders to solve problems and create opportunities for Wisconsin citizens. I have a reputation as eagle-eyed in saving money for Wisconsin taxpayers.

I’ve helped thousands of constituents receive needed services and  I’ve worked to pass the 2008 Uline Jobs Creation Act and 2011 Pleasant Prairie 12% TIF Exemption, creating thousands of Kenosha County jobs. I sponsored the Twin Lakes Equalized Value Error Correction Bill saving property taxpayers over $200 each. 

I brought millions of dollars to Kenosha County to enhance county parks and authored a bill allowing Kenosha County to continue providing services to residents despite the step-down of utility aid payments. 

I have a critical understanding of the relationship between county and state government as well as the ability, experience, and vision to guide Kenosha in the years ahead as County Executive. 


What do you think the role of county executive is?

The County Executive’s primary role is keeping Kenosha County moving forward. Kenosha has great assets making it a great place to work, raise a family, and retire. I will prioritize crafting a budget that’s lean yet protects essential services and funds the amenities citizens expect. 

I will make sure that the full breadth of talent is considered in appointing citizens to boards and commissions so that the best people available can serve with integrity and quality.

Ultimately, I will bring a commitment to listening, learning, and leading to the role of County Executive. 

Jerry Gulley

Jerry Gulley

Click here for Candidate Website

What are your three biggest accomplishments in your elected position?

“The surrounding context of my time in office has been severe partisan division in the midst of social upheaval. I am proud of how I led and voted within that time. Despite pressure to “pick a side”, I trusted my internal compass and went where a data-driven approach guided me. This gave opportunities for nearly all my colleagues to be upset with me at one point or another but I think that comes with the independent territory. I will remain independent as County Executive and will be a consensus builder, forever recognizing that Kenosha County voters are my employers.

I’m proud that the health department has pivoted to take services directly into neighborhoods that need them, and also I am proud of the new technology and resources we have brought to county law enforcement (such as body cameras). Both of these innovations serve both those departments and the people of Kenosha. 

I have been a continual voice for greater efficiency and have pushed for a more active (and meeting-as -scheduled) county board. We move far too slowly.”

What do you hope to accomplish in your first 6 months as county executive?

“From Day 1, I will instill a non-partisan culture of integrity, transparency, and cost-consciousness. It drives me nuts to receive meeting agendas and various printed documents in the mail, just to have that same documentation printed and waiting for me when I arrive at a meeting. Not to mention, the material is also emailed to us. While that may seem trivial, if you don’t care about the $2 waste, you likely won’t care about the $7 waste, or the $14 waste and so on. 

Like all businesses, Kenosha County’s departments currently face dramatic challenges in hiring and retaining staff. And we will never be able to compete simply on compensation, the private sector will always be able to pay more. But we can compete by creating a culture in which county employees feel valued, empowered and not micromanaged. After talking to many division and department leads, this will be an immediate need.

The period between getting sworn in and delivering the 2023 budget will be critical. Currently, budgets are presented and approved with little (if any) discussion about outcomes. We need to have agreed upon metrics of success that are division-specific. These will be created and presented in the ’23 budget cycle.”

Please explain how your past elected experience has qualified you to be county executive.

“I am the only candidate with direct experience in the Kenosha County legislative branch. I know what the executive should provide to the board to ensure effective and informed decisions. Having been a part of the County Board of Supervisors, I understand the interpersonal dynamics within that body and the inter-working of the committees structure.   Additionally, (and this is crucial) the office of County Executive calls for an executive, not a career politician. With over 25 years of experience launching and growing companies, hiring and retaining staff, and managing large teams, I am the candidate that brings the most real-world executive experience to the job.”

What do you think the role of county executive is?

“I’m asking the people of Kenosha County to ‘hire me’. I use this phrase to underline the reality that County Executive is CEO of an almost 1,100 employee company with an annual operating budget of over a quarter of a billion dollars. If this massive organization is not managed effectively, taxes go up, services get reduced, and our county’s most vulnerable citizens feel the pain. There is too much at risk to hand leadership over to someone with insufficient management experience.

The County Executive also wields huge influence though the approximately 40 appointments they make each year to various boards, commissions, and committees. These appointments should be democratized, representative of our whole community, and not reserved just for insiders and friends.

The County Executive is equally responsible for creating a business-friendly environment and assisting in the economic development of the region. We need to make sure Kenosha County continues to be a place where it is easy to start and do business.” 

Rebecca Matoska-Mentink

Rebecca Matoska-Mentink

Click here for Candidate Website

What are your three biggest accomplishments in your elected position?

One of my first accomplishments as the elected Clerk of Court was the oversight of the addition of an 8th Judicial Branch. Plans began early in 2008 when the addition was approved. Prior to the new Judge taking office, I worked to ensure that courtrooms, chambers, staff and file areas, as well as trained employees were available. This involved many moving pieces, collaborating with a number of county departments and outside contractors to ensure completion on-time and within budget.  

Effective jury trial administration is another area that I would consider an accomplishment, specifically in terms of high profile trials. The first trial of that level occurred with the prosecution of Mark Jensen. This was a high profile trial that was covered by national media with extensive hearings being held here in Kenosha, and the  34 day trial held in Walworth County. The level of collaboration and communication extended beyond our dealings with our local judges, our Sheriff, I.T. and Facilities departments into those departments in Walworth. That experience formed the basis of effective administration of the prosecution of Martice Fuller, as well as the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, both trials which again experienced a high level of national and international media interest.

A third accomplishment was working with the Judges and State Court Records Administration (CCAP) in bringing the courts to an electronic filing system. The implementation of e-filing has provided almost immediate access of active Circuit Court records for all litigants, as well allowing interfaces to be created with state and local agencies. This electronic filing process played a significant role in ensuring our Kenosha Circuit Court remained open and accessible during our responses to the pandemic and civil unrest.

What do you hope to accomplish in your first 6 months as county executive?

First and foremost, I will work with all County Departments to monitor and move forward with existing grants, programs, services and projects approved in the 2022 budget. Another key agenda item for me is to determine goals and objectives of County Board Supervisors, some of whom will be new to the County Board. In hand with this is building on new and existing relationships with municipalities to see where commonalities are and where collaboration or assistance can be established. Last, but most important, immediately after taking office, plans and preparations for the 2023 budget submission begins. The budget preparation process takes approximately 4 to 5 months before submitted to the County Board for consideration.

Please explain how your past elected experience has qualified you to be county executive.

Of the candidates, I have the deepest experience in public sector administration, and I’m the only one with executive experience in managing a county department. I have prepared, implemented and managed the multi-million dollar budgets of two separate County Departments (the District Attorney’s office and Circuit Court). I coordinate with multiple county departments on courthouse maintenance and improvement projects. I supervise and direct a staff of 40 full-time employees, and provide support to 8 Circuit Court Judges and their appointed Commissioners. I also have worked with many county departments in court related programs.

What do you think the role of county executive is?

Above all, the County Executive is the steward of public funds and must perform the administrative and management functions of county government in a non-partisan manner. This position needs to lay out a vision for what our community can achieve with available resources to guarantee continued economic growth and development while remaining above partisan politics. In my tenure as Clerk of Court, I’ve worked diligently alongside our judges to ensure all court users are treated in an impartial manner, to be fiscally responsible, to make sound management decisions based on practical solutions, and to safeguard equal access to our justice system. I will continue this in my role as County Executive.

Another key role is making sure that Kenosha County remains a great community that will provide for safe homes, access to education, good-paying jobs and attracting and maintaining businesses to provide for economic growth and stability well into our future. As County Executive, I will showcase all of our qualities that provide for economic opportunity that sustains our services and enhances our amenities. We should all be proud of our county parks, our multi-use trail system, our senior care facility, and the level of attraction we have for business investments.

I love Kenosha County, and I will bring my experience, passion and commitment in serving as your next County Executive.

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8 Responses

  1. Jerry — if you don’t like the county wasting money on mailing packets you could fix that right now by telling the county clerk to stop mailing them to you. Problem solved! Guess you’d rather make a campaign issue out of it than actually solve the problem.

    Becky — get out the Constitution and read it. Ever heard of Separation of Powers? The Executive Branch doesn’t get to tell the Legislative Branch what to do. “Another key agenda item for me is to determine goals and objectives of County Board Supervisors” that’s not a power the County Executive has. You should learn the job description of the office you are going to run for before the Democrats anoint you as the puppet they select to run.

    1. Hopefully you get your facts straight before your documentary comes out. The roads that are covered by the county’s budget are largely in good shape.

      The city (different executive and legislative branches, different budget) has terrible roads.

  2. Not one of them mentioned Kenosha’s roads. I’ve been to all 50 states and while every state has a bad road or two, nothing compares to the incompetence, lack of follow thru or waste of taxpayer money like the Kenosha roads department. Running plows down street with no snow, salting everywhere, repairing large portions of asphalt by throwing a few shovels in and then driving over with a truck full of 5 workers, patching concrete with asphalt, etc. The list goes on and on. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result. Welcome to Kenosha. Time for new blood and new management. More importantly someone who knows how the hell to make a road. Full documentary coming soon…..

    1. The City of Kenosha’s roads are terrible. Kenosha County has nothing to do with City roads. If you don’t like the City’s roads vote for aldermen and a mayor that will make fixing the roads a priority. The current mayor and alderman have neglected City roads for almost 30 years. Vote for the same people, expect the same result.

  3. Rebecca’s responses are just defining her current and potential elected positions. Thanks for the generic information, but I know nothing more about you than before I wasted my time reading that. Good job.

  4. Jim Kre(USER) is up to his old tricks. Why is he using
    Mentik-Mataska must want something for his support
    He doesn’t do anything unless there is something in it for him.
    King Kreuser one again trying to be King (Queen)
    maker Mentick-Matoska is a nice lady but County Executive position is way over her head

  5. Jim Kre(USER) is up to his old tricks. Why is he using
    Mentik-Mataska must want something for his support
    He doesn’t do anything unless there is something in it for him.
    King Kreuser one again trying to be King (Queen)
    maker Mentick-Matoska is a nice lady but County Executive position is way over her head

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