Vodak, Kohlman running to keep seats on Baraboo School Board

January 5, 2019 GMT

Two incumbents are running unopposed to hold their seats on the Baraboo School Board this spring.

Longtime board member Kevin Vodak and one-term member Mike Kohlman were the only candidates who filed their paperwork by the Tuesday deadline to have their names on the April 2 ballot, according to Baraboo School District Administrative Assistant Ellen Weiland. No other seats on the board are up for election this year. Each term is three years.

Vodak, 55, would enter his second decade on the Baraboo School Board if he wins re-election for his seventh term. He was first elected in 2001 and has served as board president since 2006, having previously been clerk and vice-president.

He said he wants to retain his position to continue ongoing work, such as the district’s strategic plan and a possible upcoming referendum. Both he and Kohlman are members of the school board’s Ad Hoc Committee, which has led the referendum process and managed the campus revitalization project.

One of the biggest issues facing the Baraboo School District is the photo of local high school students that captured international attention in November, Vodak said.

“I think that we need to continue to address some of the concerns that were brought up following the photograph of the boys, and we need to have an ongoing process with not only the community but the student body,” he said. “It’s been an eye-opening experience for me, I admit.”

Kohlman, also 55, said funding is the main issue for almost all Wisconsin schools, including Baraboo. While fixing the root of the problem may be out of his reach, he noted as a board member he can help by “being a responsible steward of the funds that we do have.”

He wants to be re-elected “because I strongly believe in our public education system.” His three years of experience on the board will allow him to have a greater impact than someone new, he added.

“I’ve raised two boys -- one is still in high school and the other is now in college -- that have gone through the Baraboo system, and I want to give back to the community that has provided a good education for my boys,” Kohlman said.

With his wife, Karin Jo, Kohlman has two sons, Cooper, a junior in college and Baraboo High School graduate, and Josef, a BHS junior.

Kohlman owns and operates Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago and a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He serves on the KFC Franchisee Association board and the technology committee of KFC Corp. He used to sit on the UW-Baraboo/Sauk County Friends of the Campus board, but said he resigned due to the time commitment required for the Baraboo School Board.

Vodak has a fiance of 15 years, Ronda Telvick, and two adult daughters, Morgan and Lanaih, both of whom graduated from his alma mater, BHS. He attended grade school in North Freedom and returned to the area after college to work in the family business. Vodak TV Sales and Service in downtown Baraboo closed two years ago after more than 60 years in business.

Now, he’s a property manager for Vodak Enterprises, which owns 22 apartments and commercial properties, Vodak said.

There won’t be a primary election in Sauk County this spring, said County Clerk Rebecca Evert.

Write-in candidates can register until noon March 29, but must do so before spending or collecting money on their campaign. If they don’t, write-in votes for them will not be counted unless one of the certified candidates withdraws before the election.

Vodak would be happy for the board to stay the same.

“I just would like to express my gratitude to the rest of the board,” he said. “Their involvement, their compassion, their intellect and approach to all of the problems and concerns and situations that we’ve had to address -- it is a very good mix of ideas, walks of life, backgrounds … It’s a very functional board, and I’m just glad to be part of it.”