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Milwaukee mayor replaces city’s election commission director

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(The Center Square) – Six months before Election Day, Milwaukee’s mayor has made a change at the top of his city’s elections commission.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson on Monday announced Paulina Gutiérrez as the new executive director of Milwaukee’s Election Commission.

“Paulina’s integrity and capabilities are ideally suited to this position. She will lead the office at an important juncture when public scrutiny of the work of the department will be extremely high,” Johnson said in a statement. “I have confidence in her, and I will make certain the department has the resources it needs to fulfill its duties.”

Johnson’s statement was silent on the fact Gutiérrez’s promotion means the former head of the commission, Claire Woodall, is being replaced.

The mayor told WISN TV that Woodall was offered a different position at the city, but he added that she apparently doesn’t want that job “as it stands right now.”

Johnson also said the decision to make the change has more to do with the latest cycle of mayoral appointments than anything else.

Woodall has been in charge of the commission since 2020. She was appointed by former Milwaukee Mayor Tim Barrett, and she came under intense scrutiny for how she handled the 2020 election.

Woodall also faced questions after one of her chief deputies, Kimberly Zapata, mailed three fake military ballots to a Republican lawmaker.

Zapata said she mailed the ballots to warn State Rep. Janel Brandtjen about a weakness in Wisconsin’s electoral system. Zapata was convicted in the case, and last week a judge sentenced her to probation and a fine.

Gutiérrez has served as Milwaukee’s deputy director at the elections commission since early 2023. She begins her new position immediately. She sent an email to the Elections Commission staff over the weekend.

“Change, especially when it is unexpected, can often be unsettling,” she wrote. “The experience of changing leadership is demanding and uncertain as we navigate uncharted waters and relearn to collaborate and communicate as an organization.”

Johnson made four other appointments Monday. He named Jim Bohl as city innovation director, as well as naming Jordan Primakow to be Milwaukee’s new legislative liaison director.

Johnson named former alderman Khalif Rainey to be Milwaukee’s new director of the office of African American affairs. And finally, the mayor named Veronica Rudychev as city labor negotiator.

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