West Bend, WI – After seven months the city of West Bend, WI has filled its clerk position and hired Lizbet Santana of Hales Corners as the new head clerk. She comes to the job having worked at the Village of Hales Corners and she’s spent the last six months in a job at the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
“I have my bachelor’s in education and I’m currently working on my master’s in public administration, MPA, at the University of Illinois in Springfield,” said Santana. “I don’t have a masters I’m currently working on my master’s degree.”
Santana left a job at the Wisconsin Election Commission to take the clerk’s position. “I’ve been working there (WEC) a couple months, six months,” she said. “Because I am working on my MPA this is a great opportunity for me. I love local government. It’s something I’m working on so getting my certificate in community planning because I love zoning and municipal code, which is great and awesome. So this is a great opportunity for me so getting the experience, hands on and not only working state level and being able to administer elections is just awesome.”
With regard to election experience, Santana said she worked at the Village of Hales Corners. “I did work at the Village of Hales Corners, we processed voter registrations, absentee ballots, working with the voter registration system that WEC created that all clerks within the state use. So, I know how to use it as a clerk and as an employee with WEC. So I have the skills for that.”
Santana said she was a clerk with the Village of Hales Corners for a year and six or seven months. “I was an administration service specialist,” she said. “I worked an election covering a primary, spring and General Election.”
As far as certification, Santana cites WEC. “Wisconsin Election Commission will not allow any clerk, unless they get the education they need to get and I have my training certification,” she said.
Santana said she oversaw an election by helping at the Village of Hales Corners. “It starts from voter registration to processing ballots to helping voters, so I think voter administration to helping voters encompasses all that,” she said. “I’m working on my MPA because this is an opportunity for me. You’re going to get your education and I love working with voters, I love working with residents. It’s very important to be educated so I can be clear with the voter and resident if they have any questions because as a voter and resident they want that.”
Santana said she is bilingual and speaks English and Spanish.
“I’m just excited for the opportunity and to serve voters and residents and I’m glad to be here and election integrity is important and if I can help any voter or resident with any questions or concerns, it’s a fishbowl transparency because that’s what government is supposed to be,” she said.
Santana has two sons and lives in Hales Corners. Questioned whether she would be moving into the community of West Bend, Santana said at the moment she was not looking, “but a possibility in the future maybe.”
During the Monday, June 6, 2022 common council meeting Santana was introduced to the council as Guadalupe Lizbet Gutierrez. Gutierrez said she goes by her middle name and dropped her married name to return to Lizbet Santana.
After a brief statement, the council was asked if it had any questions, none were posed and they voted unanimously in approval.
The city made job offers to two other clerk candidates; they both turned down the position.
One note of discrepancy is on Santana’s application. Under the education category it reads, “Highest Level of Education Completed” and typed underneath it reads “Masters Degree.”
Santana said during the one-on-one interview she did “not have a Masters Degree.”
District 2 alderman Mark Allen was part of the interview committee. “We talked about that during the interview process,” said Allen. “We’re aware she has a bachelor’s degree and is enrolled in a master’s program, yes. We’re comfortable that she has a bachelors.”
Questioned whether there were any thoughts about what was written in the application Allen said, “She may have misunderstood the form.”
Allen said it was “not concerning” about the application.
Asked if it was OK to put whatever you want on a job application, he said, “No, but we discussed that while talking with her.”
Allen said, “Her educational accomplishments were discussed at the interview and she never represented she had a master’s degree. Like I said, she may have misunderstood the question when she was filling out the form.”
Asked if that’s what Santana said about the typed response to the question Allen said, “I’m just guessing. I feel she’s qualified and feel she’s a good choice for clerk.”
Allen said there were more than six people interviewed for the job.
Questioned why the name of the finalist for the position was never disclosed and the lack of transparency, Allen said, “I’m not sure if there was a mistake made or failing to disclose something or what… if that’s the case then I’ll live with the consequences. I think she’s a good candidate and we went through a lot of candidates; way more than six applied but six had the necessary qualifications to be a clerk.”
Allen said some current clerks did apply.
Allen acknowledged Santana has not been a head clerk, although she has assisted a clerk.
“She has the clerk certification and I believe that’s done by the clerk’s association but that’s generally what you want in a clerk or working toward it,” he said.
Questioned about the 41% increase in pay from her job at WEC, Allen said Santana was paid “on the low end of the clerk scale.”
Allen said he will provide the pay scale for clarification.
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The job opened following the resignation last October 2021 of head clerk Stephanie Justman who left for a job in neighboring Dodge County.
The swearing in process for Santana will occur June 20 when she starts the job at an annual salary of $83,366.40 with benefits.
According to human resources at the city of West Bend, Santana’s annual salary will be $83,366.40.