The sudden passing of Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and two of her staffers in a car accident Wednesday has caused an outpouring of grief among muni market advocates and representatives across the political aisle.
A South Bend, Indiana native, Walorski was first elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd district in 2012 and served on the House Ways and Means Committee, in addition to her work as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support and ranking member of the House Ethics Committee, where she was expected to become chair if Republicans take back the House. Notably, she was the Republican co-chair of the House Municipal Finance Caucus.
Communications director Emma Thomson and district director Zachery Potts were also killed in the crash.
“The news regarding @RepWalorski and her staff is absolutely devastating. She was my co-chair on the bipartisan municipal finance caucus and knew her stuff,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. said on Twitter. “Tenacious, end-game and willing to work across the aisle to get things done for the better of her community and our country.”
“Washington needs more like her,” he added. “My heart breaks for her family, her staff and their loved ones.”
Walorski previously served on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the House Budget Committee during the 113th Congress, as well as on the House Agriculture Committee, where she chaired the Nutrition Subcommittee during the 114th Congress.
Before being elected to serve in Washington, Walorski served three terms in the Indiana Statehouse, rising to assistant floor leader and worked alongside then-Gov. Mitch Daniels on issues such as tax reform, healthcare, among others.
Officials from her home state mourned her loss but celebrated the hard work and dedication she brought to her constituents.
“I’m shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and the other victims of this terrible crash,” Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said. “Though we came from very different places politically, she was always prepared to work together where there was common ground, always decent and straightforward and she cared deeply about her work and her constituents.”
“I’m heartbroken at the news of Jackie Walorski’s passing,” said Indiana state treasurer Kelly Mitchell. “She was an upstanding public servant, a tireless advocate and a good friend. Our frequent collaborations revealed her passion for our country, and she never shied away from a challenge. She will be sorely missed.”
In addition to her work in politics, Walorski and her husband spent four years in Romania as missionaries, where they started a foundation to provide food and medical supplies to impoverished children.
Muni market advocates, who worked closely with Walorski over the years, shared in the sorrow. Chuck Samuels, member at Mintz Levin and counsel to the National Association of Educational Facilities Finance Authorities called the news “a great personal tragedy.”
“Representative Walorski was a dynamic leader with an even greater future ahead of her, particularly if the House switches after the election,” Samuels said. “Her experience and interest in public finance and nonprofits and her willingness to co-lead the municipal finance caucus was deeply appreciated by our community. In fact, NAHEFFA had just met with her staff last week, planning for the rest of the year and the next Congress. She will be remembered and greatly missed.”
“Congresswoman Walorski addressed the general GFOA membership at our 2021 annual conference – her message was hopeful and inspiring for finance officers working through some pretty challenging times,” said Emily Brock, director of the federal liaison center at Government Finance Officers Association.
“She was a thoughtful and deliberate advocate for our issues. It’s so heartbreaking to lose her so suddenly,” she added. “I am certain that her legacy of leadership for municipal finance will undoubtedly inspire others.”
“The BDA was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Congresswoman Walorski and members of her staff yesterday,” said Brett Bolton, vice president of federal legislative and regulatory policy at Bond Dealers of America.
“Our deepest condolences go out to their families and to her Congressional staff. As a public finance force on the Hill, she will be deeply missed on the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Muni Finance Caucus where she served as Republican co-chair. Our thoughts and prayers remain with those impacted as they attempt to cope with this tragedy.”
It is far too soon to say what Republican might step up to maintain the muni finance caucus’ tradition of bipartisan leadership.