Stubbs Disqualifies Herself

A couple of weeks ago Dane County Executive Joe Parisi appointed former Supervisor and current State Rep. Shelia Stubbs to lead the county’s human services agency. On paper, Stubbs looked like a good choice, but she has managed to disqualify herself with her actions since the appointment.

The whole thing started out weird. For some reason, Parisi did not engage in a national search to lead the county’s biggest and most complicated department and for a job that pays about $180,000 a year. Instead, he interviewed three candidates and picked Stubbs. You’re left with the feeling that he wanted Stubbs for the job from the start.

Parisi has long had a tense relationship with the county board — not unusual for an executive and a legislative branch — and so Stubbs’ nomination got off on the wrong foot.

But then Stubbs made things much worse. She said she wouldn’t resign her Assembly seat if she got her new job. County Board Chair Patrick Miles raised a reasonable concern about that, given the demands of the position. Also, Stubbs had previously said that she spent 80 hours a week working in the Assembly. That, in itself, was a dubious claim, to say the least. I doubt Joint Finance members work more than 11 hours a day, including Sundays, during the heart of the state budget process. The idea that a minority party member works even half that is stretching credibility. But, of course, if true how on earth could she put in 80 hours on one job and then do justice to her new, demanding county position?

Shelia Stubbs

Instead of addressing Miles’ legitimate concern, Stubbs went over the the top. She went before her church and said, “No one else had to go through the scrutiny that I am going through: The difference is I’m Black. God gave me that job. All I need God’s people to do is pray, fast and believe with me, and I believe we’ll take it by force.”

Well, unless Parisi has gotten a promotion, I’m pretty sure God did not select Shelia Stubbs to head a county department. And she is not getting increased scrutiny because of her race. She was asked a legitimate question about how she could hold down two public jobs at the same time.

And what did she mean by “we’ll take it by force”? Maybe she only meant some sort of spiritual power, but that line alone raises questions about her temperament and judgement. In fact, apparently supervisors, including Sup. April Kiyega, who is Black, are getting nasty and threatening contacts inspired by Stubbs’ inflammatory rhetoric. So, it should be no surprise that the committee that oversees the Human Services Department unanimously recommended that the full board reject Stubbs’ nomination.

For the record, I like both Stubbs and Parisi. I think Parisi has done a solid job as county exec and Stubbs is my own state representative. I’ve voted for her and I’ve been impressed at her ability to work across the aisle. So, this whole sorry episode is odd, to say the least. It demonstrates uncharacteristically questionable judgement for both of them.

At this point the best thing to do would be for Parisi and Stubbs to agree that this is just a bad fit and to move forward with the national search that should have been done in the first place.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

3 thoughts on “Stubbs Disqualifies Herself

  1. I agree this has got out of hand through a combination of inflammatory rhetoric and craven political exploitation of that rhetoric. However I don’t agree about the national search, pretending this is a purely technocratic position is a lie we have been telling ourselves. It’s a political position and the appointment should be someone who has political skills. Regina Videver would be a great choice and it sounds like she wanted it. Also national searches have recently have provided subpar candidates and lengthy processes.


    1. I agree about the executive search industry. Governments pay too much money to accomplish what could be done by putting ads and notices in the right professional journals and outlets with more general audiences. So, when I say “national search” that’s what I mean. Regina may be a fine choice, but I don’t see the down side in casting the widest net.


  2. I nominate Sheila Stubbs for the “Open Mouth, Insert Foot” award. Given her background and connections in both county and state government and her knowledge of the relevant issues, it seems likely that Sheila Stubbs may/should have been a shoo-in for the position if she had just said nothing. I don’t live in Ms. Stubb’s Assembly district, so I can’t say that I had a lot of prior knowledge of her. But I think what tips the scale against her appointment to the County position in my mind is her comments about God selecting her for the position and taking it by force if necessary. This leads me to question whether she has the temperament to lead an 800+ person department. I don’t want to convict her of guilt by association, but I also don’t think her supporters did her any favors by threatening to storm the capital if she wasn’t immediately approved. All in all, it’s a difficult and sad situation for both Ms. Stubbs and the County.


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