Gabby Giffords' Staff Carries on Despite Tragedy
Knowing that the government was dealing with critical economic issues, Congresswoman Giffords and her staff saw as their responsibility the need to inform and engage their constituents about this issue. According to David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general who now heads the Comeback America Initiative, the congresswoman, on the Wednesday before she was shot, set up a town hall meeting to prepare the public for the tough choices needed to be made regarding government spending. The staff followed through earlier this summer and arranged for David Walker and Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, to run a deficit-reduction town hall. Walker described the event as well organized with several hundred people present. The staff made sure Giffords’ wishes were adhered to: the first hour was informative with speakers and a Q and A, while the second part had the public engaged with a fact-based budget exercise in which the constituents tried to solve the budget problem by having to make the tough choices involved in reducing the deficit.
The staff has also been very proactive in helping veterans. Matt Randle, the co-founder of Veterans Education and Transition Services program at the University of Arizona, noted that there are regular sessions where veterans meet with the staff and talk about issues important to them. According to Randle, the number of veteran client constituents helped since the shooting has tripled, which shows that the staff “has not just carried the ball but has sprinted toward the goal line and done an amazing job.”
Anna Magoffin told the story of how her parents lost their home in this summer’s fires and “Gabbys’ staff was one of the first sources to offer aide in replacing official U.S. documents, including dad’s military records, which meant a lot to me and my parents.” In addition, over Father’s Day weekend the staff sponsored a "packages for the troops" day.
Everyone interviewed described the staff as concerned and caring. Captain Kelly noted that the “staff and Gabby all have become even closer because of the grief they share, the hardships they are enduring, and the challenges that still lay ahead.” This is exemplified by Ron Barber, Giffords’ district director, who set up a volunteer organization to increase the level of civility, respect, and understanding in the district. Two members on the board of this organization are John Wesley Miller (R), former chairman of the Arizona Solar Energy Commission, and Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup (R). Miller agrees with Walkup that
Giffords’ staff mirrors her personality: dedicated, diligent, responsive, and professional. I have met with Barber several times to examine the whole issue of how we should deal with each other. The staff has a real appreciation for the cause.
Why is the staff so dedicated and loyal to both the congresswoman and the constituents? Kelly Kimbro, a rancher, has nicknamed them the “’Dream Team’ because they are keeping Gabby’s work and dreams alive by still having faith. Gabby has instilled in them a goal to be helpful to the community, and they have done a great job.”
Captain Kelly said that the one tenet which every staff “member keeps in mind is ‘what would Gabby want us to do?’ They have been inspired by her hard work in rehabilitation so she can return to Congress. Her team is able to do their work because they know what Gabby would want and even though she is not back at work yet, she communicates her wishes to her staff.” Her staff do not see it as just a job but are passionate to have the best constituent services possible, something instilled in them by Congresswoman Giffords.