Tamara Grigsby, a former state representative representing Milwaukee’s 18 Assembly District in the legislature, and recent director of Dane County’s Department of Equity and Inclusion, died this week from health
complications. She was 41. Grigsby served in the legislature from 2005 until 2013,when she stepped
down to be treated for an undisclosed form of cancer.
Following her successful treatment, Grigsby became the community outreach coordinator in the office of Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, who announced her death on Tuesday. She was recently appointed director of the county’s new Department of Equity and inclusion. “Words cannot express our sorrow over Tamara’s passing or our respect for the life she lived,” Parisi said in a press statement. Both had served together in the legislature. “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. She was a public servant to be emulated, but more than that she was our friend, and we will miss her so.”
The press statement went on to note funeral services were pending and the Grigsby family had requested privacy.
State Sen. Lena Taylor, whom Grigsby succeeded in her Assembly district, said Grigsby was a fierce advocate for children, particularly juvenile offenders.
“I will never forget the advocacy, in these times of Lincoln Hills, that Tamara did,” Taylor said, referring to allegations of neglect and abuse being investigated at the state’s juvenile facility. She added: “She always said one quote that I often use, which is, ‘Instead of the Department of Corrections, if we’re not going to do programming and prevention, we should call it the Department of Punishment.”
“During her time in the legislature and throughout her life, Rep. Grigsby dedicated herself to ensuring basic fairness, equality and justice for all our citizens,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said. “When she endured a life-threatening battle with cancer toward the end of her Assembly tenure, she fought as courageously and forcefully as
she always did on behalf of her constituents.”
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, who served with Grigsby on the Joint Finance Committee, said she was shocked and saddened by the news. “Tamara was a strong, passionate, articulate voice for her community in
Milwaukee and children and families across the state, and building stronger families and opportunities for everyone in the state,” she said. “I’m deeply saddened and we all hold her family in our thoughts
After leaving state government, she worked in the Milwaukee school district for 18 months before returning to Madison as Parisi’s community relations director, charged with working with employers, public officials and community groups to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in education, employment and the criminal justice system. Grigsby, who was single, earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As well as her career in social work, Grigsby taught at UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, Carroll University and Cardinal Stritch University.
–Sources for this story: WISN.com, The Capital Times, which utilized a
press statement from Madison County Executive Parisi’s office.