Last week, we mourned the passing of a champion for Minnesota Republicans, Andy Gildea. Andy passed away suddenly on Nov. 5, 2021, at the age of 64.
On April 4, 1957, he was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, to Captain Joseph A. Gildea, a career naval officer, and Dr. Sheila Murphy Gildea, a physician. He graduated from the University of Virginia and, after college, worked for the Republican National Committee. He went on to graduate from Georgetown Law. After living all over the world, his Minnesota ties began in Washington, D.C., where he worked for Congressman Arlan Strangeland, who served Minnesota’s Seventh District. There, he met his future wife and fellow Georgetown Law grad, Lori Skjerven. The two settled in Minnesota, with Lorie eventually appointed to serve as chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. With Andy by her side, she won reelection three times.
For decades he lived near the heart of Minneapolis, in the Lowry Hill neighborhood near Uptown until the riots and the carjacking wave drove them out to the suburbs a year and a half ago. Undeterred by being a Republican in the city, he was active in Fifth Congressional District politics and his BPOU. He worked for many years as a partisan Republican staffer until Lorie’s appointment in 2010. He was a meticulous researcher and committee administrator, finding information that Republican legislators could use to draft and move bills to passage. His caucus presentations were always colorful and memorable, giving them the tools to enact the legislation they had come to St. Paul to create.
Andy’s final act was with the New House Republican Caucus. These were four members who chose to caucus separately from the House Republican Caucus over concerns about Minority Leader Kurt Daudt’s leadership. Reps. Steve Drazkowski, Tim Miller, Cal Bahr, and Jeremy Munson were thrilled to have his support in the early days after they decided to leave. Such was Andy’s eagerness to be in the arena, he came out of retirement to apply for the job of their sole researcher, saying, “I’d like to join your revolution.”
During the twelve months he was with our caucus, Andy was the chief of our small but spirited staff. His direction, intelligence, and thoughtfulness brought out the best in everyone. Central to his efforts with our caucus was his mentorship of others. His vast experience of politics in Minnesota and elsewhere was always appreciated by staff and members alike. His quick wit and gift for language were unparalleled. Every release we wrote during his time contains at least one of his clever one-liners. He went to incredible lengths to help constituents sort out their problems with the government and set a high standard of service for the rest of us.
Rep. Tim Miller said, “In this world, there are key individuals who achieved great things often without accolades or notice. But their work was critical to the success of a mission. Minnesota is a better place because of Andy Gildea. Many people, including me, are better humans because of him. I will miss Andy. His tragic loss will be felt by many beyond those who he directly influenced.”
At the funeral luncheon at St. Ambrose in Woodbury, his sister Maureen told this story: when Captain Gildea’s submarine was heading out of port down the Delaware River, their mother would bundle up the children to see it go by. She would tell them, “Stand tall boys, your father is passing by.”
Andy always stood tall and will continue to stand tall as an example to the rest of us, to hold our principles and our institutions dear and to defend them with everything we have.