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Redefining “Qualified”


On May 4, the Dane County Board rejected Shelia Stubbs, County Executive Joe Parisi’s nominee for Director of Dane County Human Services, in a 27 to 2 vote. The two committees that reviewed Stubbs’ nomination prior to the full board vote opposed her unanimously.


The Dane County Board is very liberal and racially diverse. There were many things about the nomination process and how the nominee and others conducted themselves that concerned the Board, but they rejected Shelia Stubbs for the Director role because she is not qualified to administer Dane County Human Services.


Shelia Stubbs has a master’s degree in management. She was a member of the Dane County Board in years past, is currently a representative in the state Assembly, and is an administrator of a church she co-founded with her husband. She is a Black woman.


The entire process, from her nomination to the full Board vote, was fraught with conflict. Stubbs’ approach was divisive and defiant. She told church members that Board members were opposing her because of race. Inflammatory comments Stubbs made to church members were recorded and posted on Facebook. She said she planned to continue as a state legislator while serving as Director of Human Services and then backtracked in response to the backlash saying she would resign from the legislature if confirmed.


Stubbs’ supporters targeted Black members of the County Board with racial slurs and threatening emails and phone calls. She declined to repudiate these tactics. One supporter, Gloria Reyes, who just lost her bid for Madison Mayor in April, described the Board’s rejection of Stubbs’ nomination as having “perpetuated racial harm and the current system of oppression.”  Dane County, with a population that is less than 6% Black, has a Black Sheriff, Black Police Chief, Black District Attorney, Black President of Madison College, and Black Madison School Superintendent. There are many other successful people in the community who happen to be Black. To reduce the failure of one unqualified Black nominee to racism and oppression is a disservice to every Black citizen who succeeded on merit.


Board members expressed reservations about the nomination from the start. Their concerns were about candidate qualifications and the selection process. Shelia Stubbs does not have the experience or skill set that would qualify her to manage a $250 million budget and 800 employees. Additional Board concerns included: the position was only held open for 3 weeks; no national search was conducted for qualified candidates; the interview panel’s 3 members were all county employees; there were no town halls for public comment; and Parisi ignored Board member requests to produce the names and interview notes for all candidates who had been considered.


The Shelia Stubbs’ nomination ended exactly as it should have. It was an unexpected outcome from a very liberal Board I rarely agree with. Competing on merit has lost meaning to the detriment of all of us. Real performance has taken a back seat to feelings and entitlement; and “qualified” has been redefined. Trophies are awarded for participation; standards are lowered in schools, businesses and elsewhere; and contrived excuses explain away individual failures.


When a person is selected for their race, gender, or any attribute other than being best qualified for the position, we get a Kamala Harris, Karine Jean-Pierre, Pete Buttigieg or Rachel (Richard) Levine. It’s time to redefine “qualified” - again.

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