Shelia Stubbs Running for 77th Wisconsin
Running for Community
|Shelia Stubbs has been a Dane County supervisor
for the past 12 years.
By Jonathan Gramling
They say that all things in politics are local. And Shelia Stubbs started very local about 20 years ago on the
neighborhood level in the Bridge-Simpson Street (now Bridge-Lake Point) neighborhood through its
neighborhood association and has built on her experience stage by stage getting elected county board
supervisor until she is now poised to run for the 77th Wisconsin Assembly seat being vacated by Terese
Berceau who has held the position for the past 20 years.
And yet that wasn’t the first time that Stubbs immersed herself into politics.
“It’s always been in my blood,” Stubbs said. “I come from that line of leadership where my grandparents were
advocates. My mother is a long-time civil rights advocate, so I have always had a desire and a passion to
represent people, to be the voice for people. My uncle was the city council president in Beloit. I watched him
for many years. Also I went to Tugaloo College in Mississippi. I was actually honored to be on the campaign
trail, helping U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson get elected. That’s when I really got motivated for politics.
And I also worked on Tammy Baldwin’s U.S. Senate campaign.”
It was volunteering on Thompson’s campaign where Stubbs witnessed firsthand what it takes to run a
“They were very, very strong at getting to the college campuses and getting college students engaged, involved and on the streets,” Stubbs recalled. “It was
dropping off campaign literature. It was Saturday morning get togethers. It was getting us excited about a candidate whom I would never meet. But they reached out
to me. So it is reaching out and giving people the opportunity to learn about you. And once they are engaged, they are connected for life.”
Stubbs engaged in politics beyond her neighborhood when she became involved in the NAACP Madison Branch. It was there on the executive committee that she
also saw the larger issues impacting the community. And then an opportunity emerged when the county board supervisor who represented her district didn’t truly
“represent” her neighborhood.
“The county board supervisor at the time had moved into the district,” Stubbs recalled. “At the time, he always said that he would represent us. Every two years, he
would come around our neighborhood and ask for nomination signatures. We did it. But when we went down to the City-County Building, we found that he wasn’t
representing our belief systems and our values and votes. So I just decided that I couldn’t sit around on the sidelines while the supervisor wasn’t representing us.
That’s what motivated me to get engaged.”
With the support of then Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and other elected officials, Stubbs ran and won the District 23 spot that encompassed most of the
eastern part of South Madison.
“I represent 17,000 constituents,” Stubbs said. “We start on Bridge Road. I have part of Park Street and then I go down John Nolen Drive and I have the Alliant
Energy Center. It’s the most diverse section of the city. It’s very exciting to represent people who I understand. I talk about our many facets. It’s my obligation to
keep my constituents connected.”
Stubbs was attuned to the needs of her constituents, especially those from economically-challenged neighborhoods like the one where she lived. Stubbs became an
advocate for Joining Forces for Families.
“It’s our first line of communication with neighbors when they are looking for housing and social services,” Stubbs said. “Instead of having constituents drive all
the way over to Aberg Avenue for services, they can go to their Joining Forces for Families office in the neighborhood. They’ve been hub for the police department
and the public health department. They are all a part of that dialogue. They’ve been the front line in many communities, especially communities of color.”
Her other area of emphasis was working to eliminate the racial disparities in Dane County’s criminal justice, which has one of the highest incarceration rates for
young Black men in the country. She has been an unwavering supporter of the community restorative courts.
“I’ve done that for the past four years, creating the community restorative court, which is an amazing jewel in our community that will be replicated nationally,”
Stubbs said. “It is a national model. They’ve been working with our 17-25-year-olds who don’t make the best decisions, giving them another chance. Our criminal
justice system can be so harsh. Oftentimes it is people of color who are caught up in this system. So being a part of the front end of the system, preventing people
from re-entering into our system is an area that I’ve worked really hard on. I see myself on the health services end to the criminal justice reform work. I think what
was so important for us to do in Dane County is to do it the Dane County Way. What works best for us? There are community courts throughout the United States, but I
want what is best for us. So our number one criminal justice partner is our district attorney’s office. The other piece of the community restorative court that is
beautiful is that people are not put on CCAP. It is just devastating. If you are a person who is not on CCAP and now your life is rebuilt upon reentry, it is beautiful. For
people who go further in our system, it’s just devastating for some people to be on CCAP, especially people of color.”
In addition to the people living in South Madison, Stubbs has viewed herself as an advocate for the social service agencies that are located in South Madison and
providing services to residents in the area.
“I’ve been alerting people and keeping the initiatives that are important for my district front and center,” Stubbs said. “I have advocated for many agencies in South
Madison. But I worked very hard with Genesis Social Services because I think they were doing the reentry work and really trying their best. We have to make sure
that we are distributing funds equally across the board and making sure that we are keeping communities of color engaged. Some of the agencies in South Madison
I’ve worked with are Centro Hispano, Nehemiah, Boys & Girls Club and the Urban League in trying to keep them front and center. I try to represent them from all
Perhaps one of Stubbs’ biggest strengths has been as the only supervisor of color on the Dane County Board for the last decade. She has had to confront the issues
related to diversity through networking and having frank and honest conversations with her fellow board members.
“I’m not afraid to have those conversations about people of color,” Stubbs said. “I’m not afraid to have those conversations with department heads. I did something
no other supervisor has ever done. I stood up on the county board, pressed my button and talked about ‘You talk about your strategic plan as it relates to diversity.
Let’s talk about what you are doing as it relates to racial disparities in your budget.’ I asked that question one budget cycle. The next budget cycle, I asked them to
put it in writing. So now I am going to hold people accountable for what they said. I want to see a part of their budget allocated for diversity implementation. It’s not a
conversation. It’s my passion. I am an African American. That is who I am. I don’t want to forget who I am and the people who died so that I could be given an
opportunity to be on that platform.”