Rock County Jumpstart founder Genia Stevens has been appointed to the Rock County Board of Supervisors, pending approval of the full Board at its March 11 meeting.
Stevens will take the place of former chair Kara Purviance, who resigned in December, and complete the rest of Purviance’s term, which expires in April 2022. Stevens could run for election to a full term at that time.
Stevens said she was encouraged to apply by Beloit City Council Vice President Clinton Anderson, but wasn’t sure right away.
“I thought, I don’t know yet, I don’t think I’m ready,” Stevens said in an interview earlier this week. “And then just kind of looking at it again, I thought let me go check out who the current supervisors are. And when I looked at the current makeup of the board of supervisors, there’s 29 seats and of the 29 seats, there are only two current Black supervisors.”
That’s something she wanted to see changed, and figured she could be the one to do so.
“You can’t really complain about something if you don’t really do something about it,” she said.
Stevens has lived in Beloit for 25 years, since she left the United States Navy in the early 1990s, and graduated from Beloit College. She was named one of Wisconsin’s most influential Black leaders in 2020. She is also a marketing and communications consultant in addition to running Rock County Jumpstart, an organization dedicated to supporting Black-owned businesses in the area.
“I think what local government needs from me or anyone like me is someone who’s passionate about seeing the Black and Brown community in Rock County thrive,” she said. “I think they would need somebody who’s really committed to that. Who’s really committed to being at the table in as many places as they could possibly be to make that happen. I’ve learned through developing Rock County Jumpstart that there are a lot of things I don’t know. And there are a lot of players I don’t know. And there are a lot of decisions being made through local government that affect economic development and I need to be there, or I at least need to learn more. And really the only way to learn more is to be there.”
Public service has been on Stevens’ mind, but she had envisioned it in the future.
“I was going to run for office, but I was looking at two years down the road,” she said. “This just kind of accelerated it. This will give me an opportunity to decide whether it’s something I really want to do long-term.”
A five-member ad-hoc committee of board members recommended her appointment. When approved, she’ll be sworn in immediately on March 11. She has already been assigned to the Land Conservation and Agriculture & Extension Committees, as well as the subcommittee that will oversee the second round of small-business loans in response to the pandemic.