|Edjuana Ogden, budget, contracts and operations manager (l-r), Kabura
Mukasa, human resources manager, Carrie Braxton, manager of Equal
Employment Opportunity, Dr. Martha Stacker, administrator
of the DCHS Division of Children, Youth & Families and Theola Carter,
manager of policy and program improvement in the Tamera Grigsby
Office of Equity & Inclusion
Five Women Who Impact Dane County Government
The Managers of Dane Co.
Division of Employee Relations, gathering valuable experience along the way.
“I have my undergraduate degree in French and a master’s in Industrial Relations focusing on human resource management,” Mukasa said. “My first job was as a
compensation benefit analyst for Alliant Energy. After three years, I was promoted to HR manager of Strategic Planning, Research & Measurements. I was one of the
six HR managers who created the new HR
department for Alliant Energy when Wisconsin Power & Light merged with Interstate Power & Light Company. After that, I decided to take the merger package
because I wanted to become a stay-at-home mom. I was home for almost 10 years. I was running my own HR consulting, writing and research business. After that, I
decided to return to the workplace. I worked as a compensation analyst for QBE Insurance. And then I lost my job and ended up working for DHS as a disability
determination specialist. After three years, I returned to HR proper where I worked for the Dept. of Corrections as a supervisory coordinator overseeing the staffing,
leave management and compensation section. After three years there, I worked for UW-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health as an HR manager and then as
an HR generalist for Hy-Cite Enterprises for a little bit and then now at Dane County as an HR manager. We have an HR director and then I am number two as the HR
As the human resources manager, Mukasa supervises six employees whose purview includes staffing and recruitment, classification and compensation, employee
relations and employee assistance.
Carrie Braxton, the manager of Equal Employment Opportunity with the Tamera Grigsby Office for Equity & Inclusion, started her career working in home health before
moving over to Dane County as a clerk/typist in 1997. Over the past 22 years, Braxton has slowly worked her way up to the position she holds now by taking
advantage of every employment and education opportunity afforded her. Since starting with Dane County, Braxton has completed a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.
Braxton primarily focuses in on the employment side of diversity and inclusion.
“Equal employment within Dane County is very important,” Braxton said. “Specifically, I look at reports, the affirmative action and equal opportunity reports,
comparing data from the various departments, facilitating the new employee orientation, specifically the equal opportunity, affirmative action, sexual harassment and
ADA portion of it. I meet with department heads, completing requisitions for jobs in various departments and completing justifications. Specifically, if there is an
interview panel and there are people of color and they make the interview, but they choose not to hire them, then there needs to be a justification. There is a form that
is completed if they are under parity, if it is an underutilized position, there needs to be a justification completed for that. I’m on various committees. I staff the Dane
County Equal Opportunity Commission. I work very closely with our diversity recruitment specialist. And I work with employee relations in various capacities. We
are trying to look to see where the disparities are within the departments. We’re specifically looking at people of color and women. We’re looking to see where the
holes and gaps are. If we don’t have it, what’s going on? Do we need to get the word out in schools to get kids to take certain classes? Do we need to have
internships? Do we need to have more limited term positions in certain departments so that people can learn and get the experience? And the flip side is, if you’ve
been a limited term employee for a while how long is too long? You shouldn’t be a limited term employee for 2-3 years when you have proven that you can do the
work. When can you become full-time? I serve on interview panels and do the outreach part. We also are in big demand as trainers. We facilitate trainings and also
help people organizing trainings for their departments. We’re like an octopus. We have arms everywhere. Our hands are in everything.”
Each of the five managers faces opportunities and challenges in their jobs. For Carter, it is a matter of carrying on the civil rights movement under a new banner.
“The challenge is because equity and inclusion is such a new thing; it is difficult to get people to understand that equity and inclusion are another layer on top of
affirmative action and civil rights,” Carter said. “No one should ever forget that is its foundation. When you talk about equity and inclusion, how did we get there? We
had to have affirmative action so that persons who are of different races can have opportunities. Affirmative Action and Civil Rights is not for getting people jobs
who are unqualified. It is getting qualified individuals the opportunity to be able to compete on a level playing field. Those are still some of those major challenges. I
remember when Time Magazine talked about the browning of America when I was in graduate school. That was the beginning of talking about what we are dealing
with now as an American society. We’re very fragmented and we have the us and the thems coming on because we try to keep people accountable. There is the well-
intentioned white person dealing with things. And then when you actually put their feet to the fire, you find out that their heart is totally different than what they have
been portraying themselves to be.”
For Martha Stacker, the challenge is to assist an institution to evolve as a change agent while also being responsible for the smooth functioning of the institution.
“I get the opportunity to work with a dynamic team to be able to infuse resources into the community in a large capacity and also revisit some of the things that are
stagnant and can change as well as accentuate the things that work well,” Stacker said. “I think overall, we work with a really great core team. There are people out
here busting their rumps working with these families under the radar who never get acknowledged. They just do it because they love the work they do and they are
genuinely helping these families. Sometimes the bad things are highlighted so much. I work behind the scenes because I need to keep anonymity about a lot of high
profile cases. You can trust me. If it’s on the news, I probably know about it. But I can’t have that voice in the community regardless of what I think. I value our staff
of 200 people who also maintain that anonymity because that is hard to do. That is the strength, the program, the implementation of services, the people who work the
long hours and stay dedicated and stay off the radar. They do it just because they love working with the youth and the people in the community who are invested like
the Peacemakers. They are all volunteers. We have over 100 of them. So when you think about that capacity, that’s what makes a community strong. And that’s what
gets me excited.”
During her career, a challenge for Mukasa has been to ensure that implicit and other biases don’t creep into the hiring process.
“There was a comment about not picking one individual because she had a very strong African accent and it was difficult to understand what she was saying,”
Mukasa said about an interview panel on which she was the only African American. “What I explained to the group was, ‘Wait a minute. Look at her experience.
Focus on all of the things that she was telling us she has accomplished. If you heard my father talking, you hear his accent. Yet he went to Columbia University in
New York and was a journalist. And if you saw his writing, it’s perfect English. We can’t judge based on accent. As individuals, if you think about George
Stephanopoulos, people would sat before he became famous people couldn’t pronounce his name. But we all adjust with individuals. We can all pronounce his name
now. In the same way, if we choose to hire this individual, let’s not focus on her accent. You can learn to understand what she is saying.’ Later on, one of the
panelists told me that she joined a group on diversity to open her mind because she realized that she was biased and she had never known that she had that bias.”
Edjuana Ogden, as the budget, contracts and operations manager for Dane County Human Services, is responsible for keeping the department organized and on
track from a financial perspective. During the past five years, most of the senior management in the department has left, creating additional challenges for Ogden as
she adjusts to the individual styles of each division director.
“I think the challenges in fiscal management are lately the fact that we have changed so many high level personnel in the last five years,” Ogden said. “In learning
the different management styles and trying to meet the needs of the various managers in order for them to manage their fiscal budgets and how they deliver the
programs and how to support them when they are doing budgeting, it is challenging. It is also challenging to figure out a centralized report that will meet all of their
needs. But that is also an opportunity. The challenge then becomes the opportunity to come up with tools or a series of tools that can be used to meet the needs of all
of the changing personnel. We’re losing a lot of our institutional knowledge, a lot of the people who have been there for years. They are all retiring at once. My team is
trying to figure out what will work best for this group of managers in order to help them be successful in maximizing their revenues and also using all of the
resources that they have been given.”
In essence, Braxton has to rely upon the efforts of others in order to do her job effectively. Without a lot of authority, Braxton has to assist Dane County in evolving
into an organization that is inclusive on all levels. It isn’t easy.
“The challenge is definitely hiring people of color and women and retaining them, which is so important and having them be mentored,” Braxton said. “Hiring
qualified, limited-term employees as full-term employees is a challenge. After you’ve been an LTE and have proven your worth, you should have that opportunity so
that you can receive benefits and have promotional opportunities. Promoting people of color and women to higher positions, especially management positions is a
challenge as well as pushing for staff to be allowed to attend trainings on improvement. Some managers need certain types of training like implicit bias so that they
can assist and lead better. We also have to build trust. We have gone over and beyond to connect. But there is still that little bit of leeriness of coming to work for the
public sector and Dane County and feeling that it isn’t for ‘us.’ ‘Those jobs ain’t for us.’ That’s been said to me. And we want people to feel that these jobs are for
them. And not only can they get these jobs, they can also move up in these jobs.”
All of the managers praised the leadership of Dane County Executive Joe Parisi in promoting equity and inclusion in Dane County government.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
For one of the few times in Dane County — if not the first time — five African American
women hold important managerial jobs in county government, jobs that impact policies,
budgets and personnel decisions.
One is responsible for a budget twice the size of the city of Beloit’s annual budget. Another
impacts the lives of many Dane County families and children, helping to empower them to
move ahead in their lives in a positive manner. Another is helping to decide what the
future Dane County workforce looks like. And the last two work to help the values of equity
and inclusion permeate every level of Dane County government.
What they have in common is that each has worked hard during their professional careers,
slowly moving up the ranks to earn the positions that they hold today.
Kabura Mukasa took a long, winding road to become the human resources manager for the
"I appreciate working under the county executive that we have right now because I feel
that County Executive Parisi actually has a commitment not only to diversity, but also
inclusion and wanting to make Dane County the best county in Wisconsin and we can be
a model for other counties,” Carter emphasized. “We have had a board of supervisors
who have had equity and inclusion at their heart as well. Without them, my office would
not have been created. Not only do we have a county executive who is committed to it,
but we also have a board who is committed as well.”
While their jobs may not be perfect, all five managers enjoy the work that they do and
the people with whom they work.
“Every day that I come to work — I love what I do — I come in the door and I always
say, ‘God give me the strength to understand the things that I do and the knowledge to
recognize the things that I don’t,’” Stacker said. “And when I leave out every day, I say,
‘I hope today that I helped make a difference in someone’s life.’ And I say those every
day and I really mean it. I’m just grateful and I’m really grateful about today, to be quite
honest. I just feel this is a unique opportunity that we may not have again. I feel really
grateful to be in the room with all of these ladies. It’s a good feeling right now.”
“When I can come to work at 7 a.m. before everyone else — it’s always a race between
Carrie and I — and stay until 4:30 p.m., I must really like my job,” Carter added.
Each of the managers feels that Dane County is home.
“I like the fact that Human Services reaches out to every aspect of our community to
provide assistance,” Ogden said with pride. “And the people whom I have worked with
have all been great people to work alongside with. I feel like there is a purpose here.
And I feel like the environment is such that I could exist here and be a professional just
based on the work that I do. Theola said it best when she said this is home. I feel that
way too since I’ve been here for 30 years.”
It is through these women’s leadership and example that many others just may call
Dane County home in the future.