Hello, Dane County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs. We would like you to meet the author, filmmaker, activist, columnist, global icon and six-time NBC champion that changed the game of professional basketball.
That’s what happened last month when Stubbs met Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, her childhood idol, at the 2016 NACo Annual Conference and Exposition in Los Angeles. Abdul-Jabbar was keynoting the conference and met up with Stubbs while he was signing his new book, "Writings on the Wall." It was an interesting conversation and also an interesting photo opportunity for the 7’2" former basketball player and the 4’11" Dane County supervisor.
"People tell me that I’m five feet tall, but I think that’s with my high heels on. I’m actually closer to 4’11"," Stubbs laughs. "And I don’t think Kareem has shrunk at all since his playing days. We were going to get a picture standing up and then we thought, ‘Let’s just have one sitting down.’"
Since his stellar professional career, Abdul-Jabbar has gone on to become a celebrated New York Times-bestselling author, filmmaker, ambassador of education and Washington Post and Time magazine columnist.
"Kareem was a hero of mine growing up. He was just an amazing basketball player. He’s not just one of the best basketball players ever, and he’s an amazing person, author and activist. He didn’t just stop with his great basketball career," Stubbs tells Madison365. "He reached back, and he said, ‘These are things that happened to me in my life; let me talk about them.’ That’s what I really admire most about him."
In 2012, Abdul-Jabbar was selected by Hillary Clinton to be a global cultural ambassador for the United States. He has written eloquently and thoughtfully about race and about the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
"He always talked about the issues … even if it made people feel uncomfortable," Stubbs says. "He talked about the things that were important. It’s amazing that he’s going to be a speaker at the Democratic National Convention – the last one before Hillary Clinton speaks – and I just talked with him!"
Stubbs has met a lot of famous people over the years being involved with politics and the Madison branch of the NAACP. "Oh, he ranks right up there at the top. I’ll be very honest with you, to me, he is a legend," she says. "And I think that way too often we don’t recognize legends until they are gone. I thought it was so incredible to meet him. I never in my life thought I would have met him. He was very cordial."
Stubbs, who is on the Wisconsin Counties Association and was appointed the chair of the judiciary for public protection steering committee, is the only African American that has a standing committee position for the 37-member Dane County Board of Supervisors. She was attending the 2016 NACo Annual Conference and Exposition this past weekend along with county officials, experts from the private and nonprofit sectors, and other leaders from across the country.
"The conference was amazing. I got to hang out with elected officials throughout the United States and others that worked with county government," Stubbs says. "We were able to come together to learn initiatives that are being addressed throughout the United States in our counties. We are able to get the latest information and practices and to have cool conversations. I always find it educational, and I always come back with information that I can implement."
The conference was a chance to exchange cutting-edge best practices and shape NACo’s federal policy agenda for the year ahead and to access information and resources to address some of our most pressing challenges that counties face nationwide – the opioid and heroin crisis, criminal justice and mental health reform, transportation and infrastructure, economic development and much more. Conference attendees could also look at innovative, cost-saving products and services on display from participating companies and exhibitors.
"We’re always trying to figure out how to save dollars, so this gave me an opportunity to think about how to save money by better reinvesting back in the community," Stubbs says. "There were many of those kinds of conversations."
And her hero was the keynote speaker.
"I was a bit in awe … like it was really me meeting him?" she says. "But I wasn’t nervous. It was almost like it was surreal. I felt the same way when I met First Lady Michelle Obama. Never in my dreams did I think it would happen. Isn’t that amazing, or what?"