[Editor’s note: In October of 2000, David Skilbred was appointed Executive Director of the Minnesota State Council
on Disability (MSCOD), replacing long-time director Clell Hemphill. Access Press interviewed Mr. Skilbred on the
occasion of his taking on the new job and now, just over a year into his new position, Access Press asked him to reflect
on his job.]
Access Press: Briefly summarize the mission of the State Council.
David Skilbred: Council members took the opportunity of having a new executive director to re-examine the Council’s
legislative directed powers and duties, as well as its mission. After much reflection, a new mission statement was
adopted: “The Minnesota State Council on Disability is an agency that collaborates, advocates, advises and provides
information to expand opportunities, increase the quality of life and empower all persons with disabilities.” This new
mission includes several features not found in the old statement, including an emphasis on collaboration, advisory
recommendations, and providing information.
AP: In an interview with Access Press for the November 2000 issue, one goal you mentioned was building better
relationships with other state departments and agencies. What progress have you seen in this area?
DS: Our enabling statutes direct several state agencies to send ex officio members, without vote, to our Council. We
now have a full complement and I sense they are playing more active roles. I hope they will become very active
members, bringing information from agencies to the Council and from the Council to these agencies. We also worked
with staff from many government agencies and offices during this past legislative session on a variety of issues. I
believe we have significantly strengthened our relations inside state government and will continue to work to do so.
For example, as legislation proceeded to reorganize workforce programs and eliminate the current Department of
Economic Security (DES), the MSCOD worked with a variety of agency staff, including staff from the Governor’s
office, to help define the role the MSCOD would perform as it relates to making a recommendation on the future
placement of programs currently housed in DES which serve people with disabilities. We consistently supported a
process that would allow the broadest participation possible in that advisory recommendation process. In the end, the
MSCOD was one of more than twenty disability-related councils and organizations consulted. We also worked with
staff from the Housing Finance Agency on our accessible housing proposal (visitability bill) and that was key to its
passage into law.
AP: In the same interview, you said that your vision of the future of the Council would come from members of the
Council and members of disability organizations. What have you found that vision to be? What personal touches have
you contributed to their vision?
DS: In addition to a new mission, Council members adopted a new vision. That vision includes becoming a greater
resource for disability-related information and a stronger partner with others in promoting good public policy initiatives.
My strengths are in the areas of public policy. I have also tried to concentrate on process issues used to set Council
policy. I believe members of other disability organizations welcome this vision, and their support in a variety of ways
so far has been great. Examples of support for some of these efforts include the broad coalition that came out to support
the MSCOD on the visitability proposal. Coalition members included the Minnesota Consortium of Citizens with
Disabilities, the Minnesota Association of Centers for Independent Living (MACIL), the Minneapolis Advisory
Committee on People with Disabilities, the St. Paul Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities, the Alexandria
Area Council on Disability, and the Minnesota Senior Federation. Another example is the strong support we’ve
received for our newest publication: the MSCOD 2001 Legislative Summary. This publication, a first for the Council,
brings together in one document an easy-to-read summary of legislation considered this past session of particular interest
to people with disabilities. The MSCOD mailed copies to over two hundred organizations with a survey asking
recipients to evaluate the value of the publication. Survey responses thus far have been extremely positive. I believe
these two examples show the broader community strongly endorses the Council’s vision for becoming a greater resource
for disability-related information and a stronger partner in promoting good public policy initiatives.
AP: Please summarize the key points of your well-received speech at the recent Metropolitan Center for Independent
Living (MCIL) 20th Anniversary celebration.
DS: I believe Council members are very happy to have developed such a strong relationship this past year with MCIL,
and the broader MACIL, most specifically on promoting accessible housing. MCIL was one of the first groups to
support the Council’s visitability legislation, which promotes the creation of more affordable, accessible housing. MCIL
and MACIL are also working on other accessible housing proposals which I’m confident the Council will support any
way it can. I also referred to the significant economic changes taking place in Minnesota and across our country. The
“boatload” of additional revenue the state took in just months ago is being replaced with budget shortfalls. A top state
economist said the debate is no longer about if we are in a recession, but the “depth and length” of it. This economic
change will affect all Americans, including persons with disabilities, in a variety of ways and in varying degrees. A
central challenge in the short term will be responding to this change. While I’m confident surpluses will soon replace
deficits, until that happens, it will be more important than ever that we work together, that we are engaged in public
policy issues, and that people continue to have access to important services like those provided by MCIL.
AP: How would you evaluate your first year on the job?
DS: This has been a very productive year for the Council. I did not expect we would be proposing legislation to create
more accessible housing (visitability). But the Council did and successfully passed it into law. The Council also has
a new mission, vision, bylaws, and committee structure. The website (www.disability.state.mn.us) has a new format
and several new types of information and publications. The newsletter, Connector, has a new format and new content
which emphasizes public policy issues. As mentioned above, the MSCOD also produced a new publication
summarizing the 2001 Legislative Session.
AP: What are your top priorities for your second year?
DS: I believe MSCOD’s priorities for the next year will continue to focus on strengthening our working relationships
with other disability organizations, state agency representatives, and elected officials. MSCOD will continue efforts
to identify key areas of public policy and work toward some constructive recommendations. Finally, we need to focus
on informing the public about our services, such as: the information and referral our staff provides to thousands of
citizens each year, training sessions and presentations, accessibility surveys, and changes in public policy issues which
affect persons with disabilities.