In today’s climate of extreme cynicism and rancor, we owe a debt to Melodee Jackson’s commitment to this state, this nation and the political system which underpins them, regardless of partisan leanings.
Jackson, a longtime Mesa resident, was the state Democratic party’s executive director for 18 years, an almost unheard-of longevity in this kind of position. These were the 1980s and ’90s, years some Democrats might like to forget for the GOP’s dominance of state politics. But these decades were still instrumental to later triumphs, according to one of Jackson’s successors.
“She was the glue that held it all together through very difficult times, and she set the foundation for the tremendous successes we’ve had over the last five or six years,” said Jim Pedersen, a former state party chairman and U.S. Senate candidate.
Jackson, 61, died Friday after a short illness. She did live to see the rise of Gov. Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Terry Goddard, and Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz.
“There was no prouder moment for Melodee than when the governor was elected,” said Dora Vasquez, director of the Governor’s Office of Boards and Commissions, whose desk was on the same floor as Jackson’s through Jackson’s final job, as director of the Governor’s Office of Constituent Services.
“That is a really important position,” Pederson said. “When you say ‘constituent services’ it sounds kind of bureaucratic, but these are people with real problems,” rank-and-file taxpayers who go to the top because they don’t have anywhere else to turn.
Once Jackson left the party helm in 1998, she had a short stint with the Pinal County Attorney’s Office before getting on board with Napolitano, then attorney general and the state party’s fastest-rising star.
But Jackson’s chief loyalty lay with those she assisted, and to the United States, Vasquez said: “Her office was decorated in red, white and blue, and national holidays were very special to her.”
She was also the governor’s liaison to the committee charged with selecting the design for Arizona’s entry into the “state quarters” series.
She voiced her faith in the American way during an interview about the design selection process for a December 2005 Associated Press story by Paul Davenport, published in the Tribune.
The quarters are being issued in the order of the states’ admission to the union. “Even though we’re at the tail end of the process, they’re going to remember Arizona,” Jackson predicted.
A memorial for Jackson will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 100 W. Roosevelt St., in Phoenix.