About 20 years ago I started noticing men who'd otherwise been long-time, professional ministerial servants getting appointed elders. It was surprising to me because prior to that being an elder was a special thing. You really had to live up to a relatively high standard and be seen as a role model.
I think it began as a gap-filling mechanism. The congregations were growing, mainly due to immigration (Witnesses moving to Texas from Latin America). In order to create new congregations they needed more elders. Then it slowly started becoming more commonplace. Men who'd been ministerial servants 10, 15 years, people who nobody really looked up to started getting elevated to elder as other long time elders died or dropped out.
I stopped going to meetings about 11 or 12 years ago. At some point my brother, who couldn't give a 5 minute talk without having me write out the script for him, got promoted to elder. At that point I knew the position had become a farce.
In speaking with the few JWs I remained in contact with, it became clear that the standard had morphed to roughly the following:
Are you a baptized Witness over the age of 19? If so, have you averaged 10 or so hours a month for the past two years? Have you been free from any judicial actions? If yes, congratulations. You're now a ministerial servant! It doesn't even matter if you're an illiterate buffoon.
Have you been a ministerial servant for at least 3 years? Have you been free of judicial actions during that span and averaged roughly 10 hours in field service? Congrats! You're now an elder.
It became as simple as that. There was no subjectivity to it anymore. If you checked the boxes you got promoted. It didn't matter whether you were someone whom the congregation could trust and lean on. They needed bodies and the COs started to enforce the standards vigorously.
A lot of JWs thought this was a good development because it prevented vindictive elders from maintaining blacklists. I think it made the life of the average Witness worse. It can't be encouraging to, for example, be dealing with the death of a loved one only to have elder-buffoon attempt to console you in your time of need.