By Brandi Makuski
Portage Co. Treasurer Stephanie Stokes has announced she has withdrawn her reelection bid in the fall race.
Stokes has held the seat since being elected in 2003. She said she plans to finish her current term.
“It has been an honor and delight to serve the taxpayers of Portage County for all of these years,” Stokes wrote in an email statement Friday morning. “As much as I have enjoyed serving, it is time for me to move on due to health reasons. Please accept my heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years.”
Stokes’ office has been under investigation for several months by an outside law firm following a 2013 audit uncovering several problems with the office. More recently, Stokes herself has been publicly admonished for not following payment policies, as well as removing tax records from the treasurer’s office.
Co. Clerk Shirley Simonis said she a “surprised” to hear of the withdrawal, as Stokes first notified the media without informing the county clerk.
“I haven’t received any notification from her as to this withdrawal,” said County Clerk Shirley Simonis.
Simonis said Stokes’ name would remain on the August primary ballot, as ballots have already been printed and absentee voting has already begun.
Prior to Friday’s announcement, Stokes criticized another local newspaper for printing an inaccurate story about the investigation, and later declined to participate in a candidate forum against her party challenger, fellow Democrat Tom Mallison.
Mallison is a supervisor on the Portage Co. Board and will be on the Aug. 9 primary ballot.
“I thank Treasurer Stokes for her service to Portage County over these many years and wish her the best with any health issues she is facing,” Mallison said in a statement on Friday.
Mallison added his candidacy would continue “with a message of what we can do as a county to improve the function of our treasury. We must improve our standard operating procedures, internal controls, and numerous other deficiencies cited from our last audit report. The citizens of Portage County must know that their Treasurer’s office is competent, acting with integrity, and their tax dollars are safe.”
The third candidate for office, Jeff Presley, is running as an Independent and will not appear on the ballot until the general election in November.
*This story is ongoing.