Onalaska’s city clerk transitions leadership while handling elections and COVID-19

JoAnn Marcon take over as Onalaska city clerk after 19 years of service from Cari Burmaster
New City Clerk In An Election Year

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) – In a year full of changes the city of Onalaska is entering a new beginning at City Hall.

Reading about the impact of COVID-19 doesn’t do justice like the sounds of Onalaska’s City Hall. The silence throughout the building is a¬†phenomenon that is the new status quo of many facilities across the community and country.

“It’s been a challenging year,” said Cari Burmaster, who has served 19 years as Onalaska city clerk.

Officials at City Hall have not been able to welcome familiar faces due to health guidelines.

“We’ve been closed to the public since mid-March,” said Cari Burmaster, Onalaska deputy city clerk. “We were open for a brief window and then had to close down again. We’ve had to learn how to adjust to serving our residents.”

Burmaster and Marcon are two people residents meet when they cast a ballot on election day. Campaign 2020 is something that’s played second fiddle in 2020 thanks to COVID-19.

“I love Onalaska. I’m very proud for this to be my home and to say that I work here,” Marcon said. “We have not forgot it’s an election year. That is part of our everyday job here is elections.”

No year has been like 2020. April’s election was not easy for them, but they made it.

“We did a good job of handling it and got through it,” Burmaster said. “I think that does give us better preparation processes for the elections coming up because now we know what we are going into.”

This year Burmaster decided to step away from her position. Her student Marcon is next in line to fill the role in a year that has come with an assortment of challenges.

“Service is a big part of what we do here and it’s important to me,” Marcon said.

Marcon was sworn in Monday night in a ceremony that was quieter than normal.

“It was just the two of us because, yeah, normally it would have been done in council chambers at a council meeting,” she said.

These ladies have been planning for this moment.

“The thing is, it hasn’t just been this year,” Burmaster said. “It’s been the last four years.”

Burmaster still wants to be around as she begins a new campaign herself.

“I’m planning on possibly being back because I’m going to be running for 3rd District alderperson,” she said. “So I’m kind of jumping on the other side of elections.”

Marcon said Burmaster is the reason she is prepared for this leadership position.

“I feel ready because she’s taught me everything you need to know,” Marcon said. “I still know that she’s not going to block my phone number so I’m going to continue to call her.”

The final results of an election are not possible without people like Burmaster and now Marcon who are there when people vote.

“It’s like running the marathon and crossing the finish line,” Burmaster said.

This finish line is the starting line for Marcon who said she is used to change.

“You will never know everything because it’s constantly changing,” Marcon said. “That’s what I learn daily is that whatever’s new yesterday is probably going to be new today. That’s actually one of the things I love about the job is it’s never stagnant.”

Marcon said they expect 75 percent of voters to mail in Absentee ballots this fall. However, they will still have the polls open for people who want to cast their ballot in person. The next election is the Wisconsin partisan primary on Aug. 11.