By Shereen Siewert

After an unusually contentious election with record-setting campaign spending by three candidates, voters in Wausau chose four members of the Wausau School Board from a slate of seven.

Karen Vandenberg, Patrick McKee and Dr. Cody Nikolai were the top vote-getters in Tuesday’s election and will each serve three-year terms. Jon Creisher, the fourth-finishing candidate, will serve a limited one-year term. 

McKee was one of two incumbents in the race and is the current Vice President of the school board. Current president Tricia Zunker was defeated, along with Dr. Kay Gruling and Nicolas Bisgrove. See the full vote tally, below.

Creisher, Nikolai and Vandenberg, who ran on a combined platform, collectively spent $30,325.32 on their campaigns, according to the most recent public finance records. Contributions came from individuals such as local attorneys, contractors, parents, business owners and the operations manager of a local radio group. The Republican Party of Marathon County also donated and endorsed all three candidates.

In a school board election, candidates are required to file a report if fundraising or spending exceeds $2,000. No other candidate reached that limit. McKee said he spent no money at all on his campaign.

McKee is the only one of the top four finishers to have been endorsed by both the teachers union and the Republican Party of Marathon County. Zunker, Gruling and Bisgrove also were endorsed by the teachers union.

Vandenberg, McKee and Nikolai will serve a three-year term from April 26, 2021 until April 22, 2024, while Creisher will fill Miles’ vacancy, which ends on April 25, 2022. Current board member Beth Martin chose not to seek another term. Additionally, Jeff Leigh, who was appointed in October to fill a vacancy created when longtime board member Teresa Miles announced she would step down, did not appear on the ballot.

Vote totals:

  • Karen Vandenberg: 6,657 (16.46%)
  • Patrick McKee: 6,377 (15.77%)
  • Cody Nikolai: 6,124 (15.15%)
  • Jon Creisher: 6,119 (15.13%)
  • Kay Gruling: 5,229 (12.93%)
  • Tricia Zunker: 5,027 (12.43%)
  • Nicolas Bisgrove: 4,841 (11.97%)