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Rick Jauert, longtime Washington aide to Minnesota politicians, dies at 59

Courtesy of Debra Mundinger
A photo of Rick Jauert and First Lady Michelle Obama taken from a Jauert holiday card.

Rick Jauert, a Minnesota native who worked in Washington, D.C., for 36 years as an aide to 10 House members, including seven from Minnesota, has died.

Jauert, 59, announced last year that he was suffering from multiple systems atrophy (MSA), a fatal neurological disorder. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Jauert most recently worked as Congressman Keith Ellison’s communications director in D.C. Ellison said in a statement Monday morning:

“Yesterday Minnesota lost a dedicated, passionate public servant and many of us lost a dear friend and mentor. Rick Jauert served as my Communications Director from 2007 to 2010 and worked for more Members of the Minnesota Delegation than anyone else.  

“But Rick was more than a staff member. Rick’s knowledge of Minnesota politics was unmatched.  Every square inch of Rick’s home on Capitol Hill was filled with Minnesota political memorabilia and Rick remembered every campaign and personality.

“He opened up his home to countless staffers, interns, and Members of Congress, including me. Rick was committed to a progressive vision, and he was famous for his annual holiday letters that were always a call to action.

“Rick practiced the idea that politics is about improving people’s lives — he would always go the extra mile to help someone in need.  I remember Rick gathering books about the history of women in Congress and sending them to libraries in our District.”

Albert Eisele wrote a nice profile of Jauert last year for MinnPost, after the MSA diagnosis was made.

Jauert then returned to his hometown of Luverne, Minn., to be close to the Mayo Clinic for treatment.

Jauert’s own “email to friends, “published in MinnPost in May 2012, said:

I take with me 32 years of heart-warming memories; lifelong friendships; of public servants I worked for whose selflessness and courage have made America and the world a better, safer and healthier place.

Thank you, Rick Nolan (for giving me my start, and a sense of fighting for right things no matter the odds is worth it, – now win again – we need you!); to Gerry Sikorski who taught me to work hard and care deeply; to Bruce Vento who taught me never to lose sight of your goals even in the face of adversity – and broke my heart; to Betty McCollum who showed me how to make history through great policy, and that tenacity is a virtue; to Martin Sabo who showed me time and again why the Congress should be cloned after him!; to Keith Ellison whose fearless idealism and sense of justice made me feel the impossible – possible; and to Paul and Sheila who taught me passion is a requirement for service.

Jauert, a confirmed bachelor, was also known for sending out tongue-in-cheek Christmas cards with a picture of himself and a fictional “Mrs. Jauert,” according to a 2009 article in The Hill. That year it was Michele Obama, who had posed with him at a congressional event.

Other fictional Mrs. J’s included Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Al Franken, writer Gloria Steinem,  legendary reporter Helen Thomas, former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro and Socks, the Clintons’ cat.

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