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Couple Retires After a Quarter Century of Poll Working

Joyce Washechek is hanging up her poll worker's hat after working at every city election since 1987. Her husband, Howard, has worked the same except for his eight years as alderman.

When Joyce Washechek worked her first city polling site in 1987, voting was done in a school hallway at Brookfield East High School.

"It was noisy and busy," she recalled. 

It was a huge relief, she said, when voting finally moved into larger spaces like gymnasiums or the municipal court room at the , where she was working Tuesday.

Joyce and her husband Howard Washechek have seen many changes in voting in the 24 years they have worked as poll workers and later, chief inspectors.

Joyce has worked every election since 1987 — including primary elections and special elections. Howard has done the same — except for an eight-year break when he served as alderman and refrained from working the polls.

Their long streak will end today, as they plan to "retire" from the more time-consuming work as chief inspectors, also known as election chairmen.

Joyce said she likely will continue to offer her services in processing absentee ballots at City Hall and will step at the polls if called upon. 

City Clerk Kristine Schmidt said the couple had been amazing leaders and cheerleaders of elections and democratic process.

Said Howard: "Our job is to make their voting experience pleasant."

And fairly quick and convenient, Joyce added.

Howard said he got pulled into the polling work in the 1980s when he was serving on the city's Board of Review, which reviews property tax assessment challenges. (He still serves on that board.)

The then-city clerk cajoled him into also volunteering at the polls, and he has never looked back since. He persuaded his wife to join him.

"Every one of these elections is different," Joyce said. "It's always interesting.

"You run into different problems to solve," Howard said.

Tuesday had few problems, they said. There was a bit of a scramble in the first hour after the polls opened when staff struggled to keep up with long lines that led out the door of the Public Safety Building.

Joyce said she became lead inspector when her husband was alderman and joked that she refused to give up that role.

"I'm the chief, he's the Indian," she said, smiling.

The couple first moved to Brookfield in 1954 — a year before it incorporated as a city. They moved away shortly thereafter but returned in 1958 and stayed ever since.

Howard encouraged residents, especially younger ones, to consider working at the polls if they have the time. If not, look for other civic opportunities, he said.

"Get involved in your community and contribute to your community," he said. "Leave your place better than you found it."

Scott Berg April 06, 2011 at 03:55 AM
That's HOWARD not Harold.
Lisa Sink (Editor) April 06, 2011 at 04:03 AM
Yikes, I am tired from election day, aren't I? Thank you very much, Scott! I have corrected that.

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