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Retirement begins series of events that leads to Democratic primary election
Crawford County Clerk of Courts

CRAWFORD COUNTY - Voters are definitely being given a choice in the upcoming Democratic Primary Election for Crawford County Clerk of Court.

The current clerk of court is Nancy Dowling. She was appointed to the position, when the long-serving clerk of court Donna Steiner retired in 2020.

Nancy Dowling
Nancy Dowling

Dowling served as the Register in Probate/Juvenile Court Clerk for 18 years from 2003 to 2021. She believes her administrative and financial experience is what is needed most in in the clerk of court office now.

The current Crawford County Chief Deputy Clerk Lisa Miller is challenging Dowling in the August 9 Democratic Primary Election. Miller has worked in the office as a deputy clerk of court for the past 32 years. She is citing her many years of experience as a qualification to become the Crawford County Clerk of Court.

Nancy Dowling lives with her husband Robert in the Bell Center area. They have a small farm, where they raise Hereford cattle. 

The Dowlings have four adult children–two girls and two boys. One son and one daughter live in Gays Mills. The two other children live elsewhere in Wisconsin. Nancy’s parents live in Steuben.

Nancy Dowling wanted to be a legal secretary, when she graduated from high school. She went on to get two associate degrees from Southwest Tech–one in secretarial science and another in supervisory management.

Dowling went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Upper Iowa University. She is currently enrolled in a Clerk Executive Development Course at UW-Green Bay.

Nancy Dowling was appointed to be the Crawford County Clerk of Court by Judge Lynn Marie Rider in 2021, following the retirement of Donna Steiner from the position. Prior to that she had spent 17 years working as the Crawford County Register in Probate/Juvenile Court Clerk.

Before coming to work for the county, Dowling worked at the Boscobel Clinic for 23 years, as an accounts receivable and coding clerk.

 Nancy Dowling is running to be the Crawford County Clerk of Court because she enjoys the job.

“I like what I do,” Dowling said. “I see lots of ways to improve things.”

Dowling believes there are a lot of old accounts and collections the county must pursue to get the revenue that it is owed.

“I have an excellent staff that covers a lot with the public and the cases,” Dowling said. “The clerk of court is largely an administrative position.”

The clerk of court is responsible for a large volume of reports that must be produced in a timely manner for the county and the state, Dowling explained. She noted there are quarterly and monthly reports to be completed. There are reports on the outcomes of jury trials, the use of interpreters in the courtroom and much more.

It is from quarterly reports, the grant funding sent to the county is determined.

“We need to account for every penny spent and every penny taken in,” Dowling explained. 

Of course, there’s ongoing work with the county budget for the office.

“There’s a lot of financial management involved.” Dowling said.

The clerk of court noted in some cases there is money owed the county from 15 years ago. She said it must be determined if it’s collectible, and what steps the county must take to get it or if it’s determined to be uncollectible, then it must be written off.

Dowling said the unpaid tickets must be dealt with by the county. She noted one method is working with the state collection agency and another might be a tax intercept.

Changes within the Wisconsin Department of Corrections have meant probation agents are not actively getting the people they supervise to make the ordered payments to the court. Dowling attributes this phenomenon to a lack of staffing in probation. She indicated that she is ready to take up the slack in collecting money owed the court by people on probation.

Nancy Dowling said she wanted to mention two other activities that are dear to her heart.  Nancy has been a county fair volunteer for many years and also enjoys her work serving on the Opportunity Center Board.

Lisa Miller
Lisa Miller

Lisa Miller

As might be expected, the other candidate in the Crawford County Clerk of Court Democratic Primary sees things a bit differently. Lisa Miller is the current Crawford County Chief Deputy Clerk of Court. She has served as a deputy clerk of court since 1992.

Miller is a lifelong resident of Prairie du Chien, where she continues to reside. She has four adult children and three grandchildren. Prior to working in the clerk of court office for the past 30 years, Miller worked for a surveyor and did graphic design at ‘The Print Shop’ in Prairie du Chien.

When Crawford County Clerk of Court Donna Steiner retired in 2020, Lisa Miller and fellow deputy clerk Susan Koresh applied to be appointed to the position–so did Nancy Dowling. Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Lynn Marie Rider chose Dowling to fill the position.

Chief Deputy Clerk Susan Koresh shortly retired; Deputy Clerk Linda Redman took Dowling’s former position as Register in Probate/Juvenile Court Clerk.

All of this leads to why Lisa Miller has decided to run for clerk of court in the Democratic primary election.

“I am running because I am the most qualified and experienced candidate for the job,” Miller said.

The Chief Deputy Clerk of Court emphasized the importance of having a properly trained staff in the office, and she promised to carry out the duties of the job faithfully.

“Two years ago, there were four clerks working in the office with a combined experience of more than 125 years,” Miller said.  “Today, there are three clerks working with less than two years of experience (each) and myself.”

Miller noted that in the modern era, it is increasingly unlikely to find employees that will stay in a position 20 years or more. However, Miller believes because of that fact, it is necessary to have every deputy clerk cross-trained in all of the duties of the office to maintain continuity when someone leaves.

“The learning curve is quite steep,” Miller readily acknowledged. “My goal is to have a positive work environment that will minimize turnover and ultimately save taxpayers money.” 

The chief deputy clerk believes the major issue of the campaign is the future operation of the office of the Crawford County Clerk of Court.

“It’s going to take someone willing to spend the next eight years in the position until a properly trained staff can take over from there,” Miller said. “First, I want to make sure that the duties of the office are carried out as professionally and efficiently as possible.

“You know the reasons people interact with our office are not always that pleasant,” Miller said. “While we are not allowed to give legal advice, we can give procedural advice to help people.”

Lisa Miller ended the interview with this summation of her candidacy.

“Well, I would just say it has been a privilege to serve the citizens of Crawford County since 1992 and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to serve them as the Clerk of Courts,” Miller said. “I appreciate everyone’s support, and I urge them to vote in the Democratic Primary Election on August 9.”