, ,

Special election for county executive to be held in Racine County following death of Jonathan Delagrave

Delagrave died Friday at the age of 51

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR
Jonathan Delagrave. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

A special election will be held in Racine County following the sudden death of former county executive Jonathan Delagrave.

Delagrave, who was 51, had served as county executive since 2015. He died Friday of natural causes.

Racine County Board of Supervisors Chair Tom Kramer is now serving as the acting county executive. Under state law, the county board must pick an interim county executive by July 29.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

A special election will be held for the position. Details of the date of that election have not yet been announced. 

“An order calling for a Special Election is expected to be issued by July 5, 2024 and further details will follow,” an email from Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen states.

Jonathan Delagrave
Jonathan Delagrave. Photo courtesy of Racine County

Kramer, who had known Delagrave for more than 20 years, said the news of his death was “shocking.” 

“Jonathan was an exceptional person,” Kramer said. 

“He was friends with everybody. He was a very easy going, very articulate, very smart man,” he added. 

Kramer, who also serves as the administrator and treasurer for the town of Norway, said he hasn’t decided if he wants to serve in the interim role through the election.

“It’s kind of early to really say,” Kramer said Monday. “Right now, I’m serving as the county executive and I’ll be talking with staff and other county board supervisors to help me make the decision because it does need county board approval.”

Kramer said Delagrave was at the helm of several larger county projects that are in the works, including an update of the county’s 911 communication’s system.

“We’re going to continue on with these projects that he had and the plan that he had because he laid the roadwork out for us, the path to follow,” Kramer said.

A man speaks during an outdoor press conference.
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, left, speaks while standing near Gov. Tony Evers at a press conference Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Waukesha, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Both Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow and Delagrave were sworn in in 2015. Farrow said he considered him a friend. 

“Jonathan was a great guy,” Farrow said. “He is one of those individuals who could always have a smile on his face.”

“He was always, as I say it, a public official — he was there to make Racine County a better place,” he added. 

Gov. Tony Evers ordered the flags in Racine County to be flown at half-staff in light of the news of the death. 

“County Executive Delagrave was an exceptional leader and truly devoted public servant who worked tirelessly over his many years of service to leave a lasting impact on Racine County and our state,” Evers stated. “Having known and worked with Jonathan for years, I’m incredibly grateful I had the privilege of knowing him and serving with him during our time in office together.” 

According to Delagrave’s biography on the Racine County website, he was “born and raised in Racine County.” Delagrave was first elected as county executive in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019.

He began his service with Racine County in 2003, holding positions in the Human Services Department. He was appointed director of that department in 2010.

As county executive, his biography states, he was focused on “attracting economic development, developing our workforce, and expanding mental health services.”

In a statement, State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said he was “heartbroken” when he heard the news.

“Jonathan had the unique ability to bring people together to solve large problems to help everyone, no matter their station in life,” the statement said. “It will be almost impossible to replace Jonathan, his positive impact on Racine County was that strong.”