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Here is a quick guide to today's primary election in Milwaukee

Spring primary, election, wisconsin supreme court
Daniel Sofer /
Voting booths at Hermosa Beach City Hall during California Primary

It feels like yesterday... we just voted in an election. But today in Wisconsin there's another -- a primary election.  In Milwaukee, you will find candidates running for the offices of State Superintendent and Municipal Court Branch 1.

You can find more information about where to vote, what's on your ballot and how to register here.  Before you vote, you may want to know more about the candidates running and their job duties.

State Superintendent

The Superintendent of Public Instruction, sometimes referred to as the State Superintendent of Schools, is a constitutional office<1> within the executive branch of the Wisconsin state government, and acts as the executive head of the Department of Public Instruction. The superintendent is elected by the people of Wisconsin in a nonpartisan statewide ballot during the Spring primary of the same odd-numbered years that voters select members of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. The superintendent's responsibilities include providing leadership for Wisconsin's public school districts; provide the public with information about school management, attendance, and performance; licensing the state's teachers; and receive and disburse federal aid for schools. -Wikipedia

You can find more information on the powers and duties of the state superintendent here.

Municipal Court Judge

A municipal court is a trial court that deals exclusively with cases involving city ordinance violations. Offenses brought before a municipal court are those that occur within the limits of the municipality. Examples: traffic, assault and battery, disorderly conduct, vandalism, loitering, theft, shoplifting, building code, health code, and drunken driving. Characteristics of a municipal court include the following:

  • A sentence to pay monetary forfeitures to the City is the primary sentence imposed on a guilty defendant. In addition, a municipal judge may require a defendant's participation in one of several community service or educational programs. If a defendant does not pay the forfeiture, a judge may suspend the defendant's driving privileges or put him or her in jail.
  • Municipal court records are public records. This means that with the exception of juvenile cases, the records of all municipal court proceedings are accessible to everyone.
  • All actions of the municipal court are appealable. Both the defendant and the City Attorney have the right to appeal the decision of the judge. Appeals are heard at the Circuit Court.

You can find more information about the Milwaukee's municipal court on City of Milwaukee's website.

Read more below.

Candidates for State Superintendent

(Thanks to Urban Milwaukee for the bios)

Tony Evers

I’ve been an educator all my adult life.

I grew up in small town Plymouth, WI. I worked at a canning factory in high school, put myself through college, and married my kindergarten sweetheart, Kathy – also a teacher.

I’ve been an educator all across Wisconsin,and no matter where I worked, I put kids first. Always. I became a principal in Tomah, was an administrator in Oakfield and Verona, before being elected as your State Superintendent.

I have always tried to find common ground, while holding firm to the values we share.

I am running for re-election as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, because I believe that Wisconsin children deserve a world class education system. A system that is fair and balanced to every child from Antigo to Superior, and Viroqua to Milwaukee. I will continue to stand up for our children, and do what is right for the future of our State no matter their financial circumstance. I will vigorously defend our public schools, so we never pit the haves against the have nots.

Every child in Wisconsin should be a graduate, college and career ready, but I know it requires more to get kids across the finish line. We need teachers who are both inspired and empowered to teach every kid. We need to offer mental health services in our schools and find a way to close achievement gaps. Education is the driving engine of our economy. Education gives kids a ladder of opportunity, and every child, not just some, deserve the resources Wisconsin should invest in them.

Lowell Holtz

I am a Wisconsinite, born and raised, and have been married to my high school sweetheart, Sue, since 1980.  We have five children who attended both parochial and public schools.  Like many of you, we were ‘choosy’ in that regard, always trying to find what’s best for each child.  In 2004, Sue and I both earned our Educational Doctorate Degrees in Leadership, Learning and Service, from Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University.  Previously, while working on my Masters in Education from UW – Madison, I served as a police officer in Whitewater during my spare time.

My education experience exceeds 30 years and includes teaching at a small parochial school in Minnesota, serving as an elementary and middle school principal in Cambridge, and being honored as a Wisconsin Principal of the Year and National Distinguished Principal in Peshtigo. I have also served as a superintendent or district administrator in the Palmyra-Eagle, Beloit and Whitnall school districts, covering a wide and diverse spectrum of rural, urban and suburban communities.

While serving those schools and districts, I have:

  • Raised test scores in all districts and schools served by collaborating with teachers, administrators and parents
  • Collaborated with business, industry and community to

    • Create a regional, multi-district career and technical education academy
    • Launch annual business/education summits
    • Create charter schools
  • Partnered with a team of parents and community members to build one of the state’s finest high school athletic complexes without raising taxes
  • Led successful urban school reform effort, drastically reduced violence, returned control of classroom to teachers, closed achievement gaps and increased graduation rates
  • Consistently raised teacher satisfaction, pre- and post-Act 10
  • Put systems and teams in place to consistently close gaps by raising academic achievement of all students

John Humphries

I’m a lifelong Wisconsinite, the proud father of two college-aged boys, and have been married to my incredible wife, Kay, for 22 years. I’m running for Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction for three simple reasons: to deliver results, genuine accountability, and meaningful student-learning to all Wisconsin students.

My love of public education and community service started at home. The only son of four children of an active Democratic mother and a Reagan Republican father, they led by example and fought for justice and the teachings of our church. They taught me to value, understand, and respect every side of every issue. How to disagree without being disagreeable. How to stand on principle, while knowing that ultimately it’s right to share this society with people who might disagree.

And they taught me that the most important thing was doing right by friends and strangers alike. My mom, Ruth, driven by her love of children, started a preschool. My dad, Harry, started a small paving company out of college that he built into a large, successful enterprise, providing dozens of good-paying, family-supporting jobs.

I earned a BS in Bacteriology from UW-Madison in 1988, and went to work in small biotechnology companies and UW-Madison research labs. But it was through my work as a volunteer science and math tutor at Madison East High School that I found my true calling as an educator. I later earned a Master’s Degree in Education from UW-Whitewater, my Education Specialists (Ed. S.) degree from UW-Madison, as well as Wisconsin licenses as a Superintendent of Schools and Director of Special Education/Pupil Services. I am also a Nationally Certified School Psychologist.

Over the past two decades, I’ve had the privilege of serving in public schools across the state and with the fantastic professionals in our Department of Public Instruction. My boys have attended public schools, private schools, and we’ve even homeschooled. We have learned that every student learns differently, and that every child deserves an education option that moves them ahead.

In the course of almost 20 years in Wisconsin education, I have worked in small rural school districts (La Farge and Dodgeville), one of the wealthiest (Middleton-Cross Plains), and the district with the highest poverty rate (Beloit). I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, and learned this simple fact:

We have so much to be proud of in Wisconsin, but we also have challenges we can no longer ignore.

Candidates for Municipal Court Judge

William Crowley

Since graduating from Marquette Law School, William Crowley has demonstrated a commitment to serving marginalized populations in the community.  He began working as an attorney with Hudson Legal in 2011, working on a foreclosure review project for JP Morgan Chase Bank.  In this job, he worked to ensure compliance with federal and state laws, and identify cases where a non-compliance issue existed, so a settlement could be reached with the owners.

In 2014, William joined the staff at Disability Rights Wisconsin, working as a Family Care and IRIS ombudsman, working with people with disabilities on Wisconsin’s long-term care programs.  In this capacity, he has been an advocate for people facing denials or cuts to their essential long-term care related services, conducting investigations, negotiating, and assisting with appeals to the State.  Also in this role, he serves on a number of committees, including working with local government and county transit officials on public transportation program implementation for people with disabilities.

Furthermore, since 2012 William has served on the Board of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, most recently as its Affirmative Action Officer, working to cultivate a broad, representative membership on the Board.

William has spent many years as an advocate for people with disabilities. When he was just two years old, he was critically injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, killing his stepfather and mother, who was 8 months pregnant at the time. The crash left him paralyzed from the chest down, but did not injure his resolve to carry on with life and strive for success. William will use this determination and ability to persevere to bring about a more just and equitable Milwaukee Municipal Court.

You can often find William venturing to new establishments around town and attending many of our festivals and local events. He is also an avid competitor in one of Milwaukee’s local trivia leagues.

Kail Decker

I began my career in municipal law halfway through my second year in law school when the City of West Allis hired me to prosecute ordinance violations. Under Supreme Court rules, I was able to practice law under the supervision of attorneys while still in school I learned from attorneys and honed my skills by handling 2,000 cases and conducting 200 trials while still in law school. In fact, I conducted almost every municipal trial that occurred during my year and a half with West Allis. After earning my juris doctor degree from Marquette University Law School in May 2008, I joined the Green Bay City Attorney’s Office as an assistant city attorney only two weeks after my admission to the Wisconsin State Bar.

In Green Bay, I worked on nearly every aspect of law that a municipal attorney could face. I advised every city department, handled open meetings and public records, and practiced in intellectual property, Indian Law, real estate, nuisance abatement, personal injury, and contracts. In addition to that broad range of experience, I also served as the sole city prosecutor for several years and handled over 10,000 cases in that role. Having earned a reputation for municipal law expertise in Brown County, I regularly advised neighboring cities and villages on special issues or acted as a special prosecutor for them.

After over 5.5 years in Titletown, I returned to Milwaukee for an opportunity to serve the city where I began my legal career and take on new challenges. For the past 3 years as a Milwaukee assistant city attorney, I have used the legal knowledge I attained to combat zombie foreclosures, abusers of LLCs, public nuisance properties, dilapidated and dangerous buildings, and bad landlords. My role has expanded to include real estate and defense work, but I still focus primarily on work that improves and helps our most disadvantaged neighborhoods. I have handled some significant cases such as the demolition of the old Solvay Coke buildings (saving the taxpayers $200,000) and the $1.25 million racketeering lawsuit against local landlord Mohammad Choudry.

Even though I have dedicated my career to municipal law since 2006, I also have been a landlord for over 14 years, have purchased 4 houses, earned a pilot’s license, spent almost 1,000 hours completely remodeling my Green Bay home, and had worked 18 different jobs by the time I graduated law school. My experiences outside of municipal law give me a unique perspective that allows me to see many points of view.

I live in a 1920s bungalow on North 57th Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood with my lovely fiancée, Brie, and our cat, Kirby.

After over 10 years of municipal work handling over 12,000 cases (including 330 trials) in 10 different municipal courts and over 100 cases at the circuit court level, I am ready to take on the next challenge by serving as a municipal judge.

Valarie Hill

Judge Valarie A. Hill was elected to the bench in the City of Milwaukee in April 2004. Prior to her election, she served as a Milwaukee County Judicial Court Commissioner, where she presided over thousands of misdemeanor, felony, traffic and small claims cases. Previously, Judge Hill served as a Deputy First Assistant, Senior Assistant and Assistant State Public Defender in the Milwaukee Trial Office where she was a member of the management team and handled thousands of criminal and administrative matters for indigent defendants. Judge Hill graduated from The Ohio State University and the University of Akron School of Law. She is active in numerous community-based organizations and is a member of the Wisconsin, Milwaukee and National Bar Associations as well as the National Association of Women Judges.

Brian Michel

Since graduating from Notre Dame Law School, Brian Michel has dedicated his career to serving the public of Milwaukee. That service began as an Assistant DA with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office. In that office, Michel developed the skills necessary for managing a large calendar, learned the inner-workings of the justice system, and became engrossed in the problems facing Milwaukee communities.

After serving with distinction, Michel transitioned to work with the communities, rather than the State. Joining Legal Aid Society in 2013, Michel works a Staff Attorney in the non-profit’s Civil Division. There, he represents low-income Milwaukee residents in various legal matters, such as eviction defense, unemployment appeals, municipal citation defense, and consumer law violations. He has fought for the rights of tenants coerced to live in condemned buildings, returned thousands of wrongfully denied benefits to workers, and stands up for those who go before the municipal court to ensure they receive fair treatment.

In the community, Brian Michel has never lost touch with the challenges of Milwaukee. Attending meetings of the Mental Health Task Force, Community Justice Council, Milwaukee Housing Coalition, Veterans Health Coalition, and the Continuum of Care Committee, Michel has developed an eagle-eye perspective of the state of Milwaukee health services, the available resources, and how access to those services has a substantial impact on municipal court filing rates. Specifically, Michel has participated in a project started in mid-2015 to reform the Milwaukee Municipal Court and improve outcomes at every decision point. As a co-chair of a committee to address how low-income residents are protected and informed of their rights in court, Michel has consistently challenged the court to comply with its obligations under the law.

Brian Michel was trained at Notre Dame to be a “different kind of lawyer.” He joined Legal Aid Society to support their mission to “do all things necessary for the prevention of injustice.” Now, he aims to bring that commitment to justice and progress to the Milwaukee Municipal Court.

Brian lives with his partner, her son, and their two dogs, Norm and Justice. He enjoys cooking; reading about philosophy, history, and legal news; and taking in live music.

Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee