Jeramey Jannene

Bill Christianson Is Milwaukee’s New Fiscal Watchdog

Christianson defeats Greg Gracz for open seat as city comptroller.

By - Apr 2nd, 2024 10:04 pm
Bill Christianson. Photo courtesy of Christianson for Comptroller.

Bill Christianson. Photo courtesy of Christianson for Comptroller.

Bill Christianson is the new independent watchdog for the City of Milwaukee.

Voters chose Christianson over Greg Gracz, the former head of the firefighters’ union, to serve a four-year term as the city comptroller. Unofficial results from Milwaukee County show Christianson pulling in 63.7% of the vote to Gracz’ 35.5%.

The comptroller, effectively the chief financial officer, is responsible for auditing city finances and serves as a watchdog over city practices. Under state law, the comptroller is the administrator of the city’s financial affairs, including debt management, payroll and accounting practices.

The new comptroller is no stranger to the office. Since fall 2022, he has served as deputy comptroller to comptroller Aycha Sawa, who announced her decision not to run for reelection in October. Sawa had held the office for a single term and previously served as deputy under Martin Matson. Both Matson and Sawa endorsed Christianson, as did Matson’s predecessor Wally Morics.

Prior to joining the comptroller’s office, Christian served as a capital and debt specialist for the Department of Administration. He holds a graduate degree in public administration from UW-Milwaukee and is a certified public finance officer.

The 2024 Comptroller’s Office budget includes 56 authorized positions and a $4 million budget. Christianson will see a pay bump from $122,418 to $144,449. Sawa had only received $125,607, but all elected officials are receiving a 15% bump, the first raise since 2008.

In addition to his official role, Christianson will be subject to a number of other appointments. The comptroller serves on the Wisconsin Center District board, City of Milwaukee Deferred Compensation Board, Annuity and Pension Board and as secretary of the Public Debt Commission.

Christianson, 38, is married to Molly King, the city’s newly-appointed employee benefits director. King, like Christianson, is a veteran of the city’s budget office.

Gracz, 76, is the former head of Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Local 215. He rose to the rank of captain within the Milwaukee Fire Department and has been out of city government since 2006, four years before Christianson started.

After his time with the city, Gracz served as the director of labor relations for Milwaukee County and was Governor Scott Walker‘s appointee to run the state’s human resources system.

Gracz’ run for comptroller came 32 years after he challenged John Norquist for mayor. His mayoral campaign was derailed amid an allegation he exposed himself to a female firefighter at a convention, a claim he still denies.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

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