Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson to replace elections chief Claire Woodall

Published: 1 month ago

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Claire Woodall's exit comes six months before the November presidential election in which all eyes are expected to be on Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Mayor Replaces Elections Chief Claire Woodall-Alison Dirr

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson has announced the replacement of Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall with her deputy, Paulina Gutiérrez. This change comes six months before the November presidential election, and Gutiérrez's nomination will require Common Council approval. Mayor Johnson expressed confidence in Gutiérrez's integrity and capabilities, stating that she is ideally suited to lead the office during this critical time when public scrutiny of the department's work will be extremely high. Woodall was appointed to the position in 2020 by then-Mayor Tom Barrett, and she had worked at the Election Commission since 2013, except for a period when she served as the City of Cedarburg city clerk in June 2019. Woodall's next steps were not addressed in the statement released by Johnson's administration, and Johnson denied that Woodall was fired, stating that she had been offered a different position that she does not plan to take "as it stands right now." The timing of this change was attributed to the cabinet appointments that follow mayoral elections. Johnson also clarified that this was more of a personnel matter rather than a matter of Woodall's technical ability to do her job. He further mentioned that Woodall had not been accused of any wrongdoing similar to her former deputy, Kimberly Zapata, who was fined and ordered to serve probation for ordering three military absentee ballots under fake names ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. The mayor's spokesman stated that Johnson was not available for an interview with the Journal Sentinel on the day of the announcement.

Gutiérrez, who was appointed deputy director in early 2023, has held management positions at the state and local levels. In a statement, Johnson's administration emphasized that Gutiérrez will be provided with the appropriate resources as the department moves into the fall to ensure its success. Gutiérrez herself acknowledged the challenges of changing leadership, especially when it is unexpected, and expressed her commitment to building a network of people with experience in elections to support the department's efforts in the upcoming critical election year.


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