“I like change, and this role allows me to be a part of the big change that is really going to impact the organization. I like challenges, too. This role is challenging and it allows me to be engaged, change my thinking, and move quickly,” says Kimila Daniels. “Going to work every day knowing that I’m going to be a part of something that is really going to impact the organization and where it’s going … that excites me.”

Daniels got some really big news earlier this month when it was announced that she was promoted to Chief Administrative Officer for Quartz Health Solutions, Inc (formerly Unity Health Plans Insurance Corporation) here in Madison. “I have responsibility for all of the information technology (IT). That includes IT security, data warehousing, help desk … everything IT related,” Daniels tells Madison365. “Then I also have responsibility for human resources and for facilities management. I have responsibility for all internal communications.”

That’s a lot of responsibility.

Kimila Jones Daniels
Kimila Jones Daniels

“I’ve been in human resources for over 20 years. That’s my niche … my wheelhouse, if you will. So when I started with Unity, I was hired as a VP of Human Resources and over time I took on additional responsibilities,” she says. “My position is a new role for the administration. They’ve never had a Chief Administrative Officer. I report to the CEO. It’s very exciting.”

Unity Health Plans Insurance Corporation has transitioned recently into Quartz Health Solutions, a change people in the community are still getting used to. “Quartz is our new brand and Unity is now a health insurance product,” Daniels says.

Today, Quartz manages services for the health insurance plans Unity and Gundersen and also provides administrative services for self-funded health plans while serving 275,000 customers who live in southern and western Wisconsin, parts of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota from offices located in Middleton, Sauk City and Onalaska, Wis.

“The role as Chief Administrative Officer is a role that I’ve known I wanted to be in for the last 5 years,” Daniels says. “This is a role that I have been working towards – having a more expanding role in the organization and taking on departments that really help support the organization. When you think about facilities, HR, and IT … those are critical pieces for business. You’ve got to have the building, you’ve got to have the people, you’ve got to have the technology to make the business successful. So, I’m very excited about the role I am in.”

Daniels says that when she started at Unity almost four years ago there were 122 employees. “Over time, we’ve had organic growth and a merger with Gunderson Health and now we have about 500 employees,” she says.

It depends on the day, but Daniels says that she spends the most time with human resources. But that can change quickly. “Any given day, I will spend a couple hours with facilities … with space planning and move right into something with human resources and have a meeting regarding merger and acquisitions and end the day with IT,”she says. “It’s just all over the place. My calendar is all over the place; it’s not just one specific thing in a day.”

That can make for a very interesting day.

“Interesting is an interesting word,” Daniels smiles. “But yes, it does make it very interesting. It does make me very engaged in the work that I do. There are challenges all the time and there is change. I’m the type of person who really thrives on change … good change.”

Daniels is also a certified life coach and she says that she is naturally drawn to people and people challenges.

“Overall, I would describe myself as a fixer,” she says. “I’m known for being able to help individuals sort through challenges and come up with a creative fix for whatever the challenge is.”

Is this the job that she always saw herself in as a young person?

“No, oh, my gosh. No,” she smiles. “Originally, I wanted to be a police officer … and I’m nowhere close to that.”

Daniels is originally from southern Illinois – Mt. Vernon to be exact. It’s a city of about 15,000 people. “It’s a very small town. Not a very diverse population,” she says. “Often in my classes, I was the only person of color or maybe one of two.

“My first year of college, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. That lasted about a semester and a half. Then I decided I wanted to be in businesses; specifically management and organizational development,” Daniels remembers. “My bachelor’s and my master’s [degrees] are both in organizational development and organizational behavior.”

Daniels earned a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Greenville College and master’s degree inManagement and Organizational Development from Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. She also holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification through the Society for Human Resource Management.

Daniels says that she has lived in five states in her life but has lived the majority of her life in Springfield, Illinois. She has resided in Madison for the last four years after working for Lionsgate Entertainment in Los Angeles.

Kimila Jones Daniels and Dr. Jack Daniels
Kimila Jones Daniels and Dr. Jack Daniels

“My husband and I wanted to get back to the Midwest to be closer to our families and that led us to Madison,” she says.

Is it hard to have a famous husband here in Madison?

“My husband is famous?” Daniels laughs, speaking of Dr. Jack Daniels III, the president of Madison College. “His role draws a lot of attention. It’s not as much as when we first came. When we first came, we couldn’t even go to the grocery store without someone stopping us.

“It’s easy for me to maneuver and do things in the city and not be easily recognized when I’m not with him, she adds. “When I’m with him, everybody knows who he is. And that’s fine.”

Daniels says that she generally likes to fly under the radar. “I don’t really like to be in the limelight. I like to help behind the scenes. I’m very much about quietly getting things done,” she says.

Daniels also gets plenty done in the community in her spare time. Specifically, by serving on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and the YWCA Madison. She also has been a member of Madison Black Women Rock, a group formed by Keetra Burnette that aims to inspire black women and girls in Madison to pursue their passions while recognizing and supporting one another’s achievements.

“It’s important for me to give back and to be involved in the community. I have a passion for children and empowering women. For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve always done something to volunteer for children,” Daniels says. “In my previous positions in cities I’ve lived in, I have been a big sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters, I’ve volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club, I’ve done tutoring. I’ve always had a passion for that.

“My mother used to always say to me, ‘To whom much is given; much is expected.’ I’m very much the type of person who feels like I always have to be doing something or giving back or being a part of something,” she adds. “I like to get involved in the community at the grassroots level and really try to figure out how we can make a difference.”

Kimila Daniels (fifth from left) with the Madison Black Women Rock team
Kimila Daniels (fifth from left) with the Madison Black Women Rock team

Daniels says that her long-term goal is to get to the point where she no longer works in a corporate environment and she spends 80 percent of her time volunteering. “Not just volunteering in the United States, but overseas, as well. A couple years ago, my husband and I went to Tanzania and we spent some time volunteering at two orphanages,” she remembers. “The feeling of doing what we did was just amazing. That’s when I started to think it through: What’s my long-term goal, personally? Ideally, I would like to spend 80 percent of my time volunteering with children, education, women, and empowerment. Especially overseas and in Africa … Tanzania, Kenya.

“Here in the United States, I just want to be able to be an example for other women and young girls of color of what they can achieve,” she adds. “Where I grew up, there were no women of color in a role that I am in. I didn’t see that narrative for me. I find that more often than not that young girls – and kids of color, in general – don’t get to see people thriving who look like them. I want them to be able to think and say, ‘Hey, I can do what she’s doing.’”

Daniels says she’s very much a person who wants to “walks her talk.”

“I’m one that typically likes to be behind the scenes doing the walking and getting things done,” she says. “Wherever I can volunteer my time in the community, I do.”

In the meantime, Daniels really wants immerse herself in her new role at Quartz.

“I have plenty of experience in human resources, but I love being part of the technology side and developing,” Daniels says. “I’m a fixer. And there are always challenges and problems to fix in IT and HR.

“Everything I do, I want to be the best I can possibly do. I’m very competitive,” she adds. “My goal is to be able to assist with setting the overall company strategy to get our organization to where we want to be in 3-5 years.”