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Resolution Will Honor Tamara Grigsby: “She was a jewel”

County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs hopes to rename the Office for Equity and Inclusion in honor of Tamara Grigsby


Dane County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs has introduced a resolution to rename the Office for Equity and Inclusion in honor of Tamara Grigsby, a voice for justice and fairness and a fierce advocate for workers and children. Grigsby passed away March 15 at the age of 41.

“Tamara was here back home in Madison for just a short amount of time but she touched so many lives and did some remarkable things,” Stubbs tells Madison365. “I am just so appreciative for all that she did. Her kindness, sense of humor, strength, and graciousness enriched those fortunate enough to know her and her work.”

From 2005 to 2013, Grigsby was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly representing the 18th Assembly District in Milwaukee. Since 2014, she was the director of community relations at the Dane County Executive Office. Stubbs says she heard the news of Grigsby’s passing from County Executive Joe Parisi.

“I was incredibly sad when I heard the news. I immediately said to myself, ‘What can I do to always keep her in our memory in this county for all of the great efforts that she has made?’ She worked very closely with me on racial disparities and other issues,” Stubbs remembers. “What better idea than to name the department after her. She was the first director of the department. This is a way that we can always remember her.”

Dane County District 23 Supervisor Shelia Stubbs
Dane County District 23 Supervisor Shelia Stubbs

Stubbs and Grigsby developed a friendship and a sisterhood as two black women working together in a largely white environment. “When she came back to Madison, we were introduced and she wanted to immediately get to know the people within the community. She wanted to know more about me and my goals were and some of the policies I was working on,” Stubbs remembers. “We had lunch together immediately and then we had several lunches together after that. We bonded well because I recognized her passion at the state level and she recognized my passion at the county level. We worked well together and shared ideas and feedback all the time.”
Tamara Grigsby (right) with State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa at a rally for President Barack Obama in 2012.
Tamara Grigsby (right) with State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa at a rally for President Barack Obama in 2012.

Grigsby graduated from Madison Memorial High School and received a bachelor’s degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In Milwaukee, she worked as an adjunct professor at Carroll College, UW-Milwaukee and Cardinal Stritch University. She was a member of many organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Wisconsin Women in Government Board, and the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council.

Stubbs has been in Madison since 1993 and she would often ask Grigsby, who grew up in Madison, about what the city was like before she arrived. “Because she was gone for so long she didn’t really know all of the people here because Madison is very transient – people come and people care – so I helped her with those connections,” Stubbs says. “But when we were at the table together, we had a lot of the same philosophies and the same interests. It was a sisterhood. We were connected.”

Tamara Grigsby is honored by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.
Tamara Grigsby is honored by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

This past week, Grigsby’s unexpected death hit both Madison and Milwaukee hard and there has been a public outpouring of grief and tribute.

“Tamara wasn’t a politician. She embodied all that we seek in our public servants,” said State Senator Lena C. Taylor of Milwaukee. “Tamara was driven by the knowledge that at the end of every bill or budget motion was a real person that would be impacted by her work.”

“Tamara was a special human being whose sole motivation in life was to make a difference in the lives of others — a goal at which she excelled,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “She was a public servant to be emulated, but more than that she was our friend, and we will miss her so.”

Stubbs introduced the Tamara Grigsby resolution to the County Board last Thursday and was extremely sad and very emotional as she did so. “As I started reading the resolution, the reality that she was gone really dawned on me and it hit a certain part of me,” Stubbs says. “It was an easy gesture to do, but it was so hard to read that resolution. Tamara’s vision and strength will be sorely missed.”

Stubbs hopes that her resolution will help keep Grigsby in people’s minds all of the time. “Too often in Madison, we don’t show our appreciation for people who have served us and passed away,” she says. “There should be so much in our city named for our giants and our greats to remind us of what we are fighting for. I think we need to do a better job in this respect.”

Stubbs says that Grigsby should be remembered as someone who extolled the virtue of caring for the underdog and comforting those in need.

“Even when she had cancer and she wasn’t feeling her best and when she injured her arm, I watched Tamara still making it to those meetings trying to give 100 percent,” Stubbs says. “Even though I could tell she wasn’t feeling the best, she would try to be everywhere. She was still fighting for equity and she still worked diligently for the county executive and with the county board. She was a jewel.”