My Role Model in Public Office

Posted by Terri McCormick On August - 4 - 2013

Role ModelSoul-searching took me to my first inspiration and role model in political office, Representative Earl McEssy. It was this man’s act of kindness after my father had died that lingers with me still. “Go to Representative McEssy if you or Mom need me after I am gone,” Dad told me when he knew that his death was certain.

I remember standing in the hallway of Rep. McEssy’s large home on Forest Avenue, just down the block from ours. It was there that I would find the help my mother needed. It appeared there was a problem with Dad’s medical insurance coverage at the end of his life. The medical evacuation helicopter was not covered, and my father’s life insurance policy was being held up for that reason. Widowed, with only me to help, my mother could not find a way to pay for my father’s funeral.

Our family sorrows became Rep. McEssy’s sorrows. My mother cradled her head in her hands in grief as she tried to work her way through the medical and ambulance bills on her desk. It was time for me to turn to my father’s friend for help.

I quietly phoned him from the next room. “Representative McEssy? I am George McCormick’s daughter. My father died last week, and we are running into some pretty difficult problems. I am sorry to bother you …”

The need to help my mother gave me the distance I needed to block my own grief and sorrow.

I went on, “Rep. McEssy, my mother needs help working through the requirements of the insurance company—they need proof that my father was on Medicare insurance in Minnesota before his death. “You see, Rep McEssy, we don’t know how to get the paperwork from Minnesota to the Social Security office in Washington,” I managed to finish before a sense of hopelessness felt its way down my face in the form of a tear.

McEssy’s voice was kind, steadfast and reassuring. “Terri, tell Ardys that she is not to worry about anything. Tell her that I will take care of this and it is not a problem.” He went on in soft tones, “Terri, don’t be afraid. I will help you.”

I managed to say the words “Oh, thank you … thank you so much” before I hung up the phone.

It was this memory that has acted as a pivotal moment for me, that shapes the way I view the responsibility of an elected official. It was Earl McEssy, our trusted family friend and state representative who cared for us and carried us through a difficult time with his integrity.


My campaign resembled more of a ragtag volunteer army than a well-oiled political machine. We had heart, a passion to serve and a sincerity that was welcomed, quite literally, into the homes and minds of the people who lived in the Fifty-sixth House Assembly District in Wisconsin. For me, it has not been easy. I’ve always wanted to make a difference but haven’t always wanted to be in the limelight. For that, I needed to believe and be convinced to run for elective office.

The voices of former students visiting my office encouraged me. “Stop talking about how things can change and how to change them, Ms. McCormick, and get out there and run for public office.” Before I knew it, “we” were running for the Fifty-sixth House Assembly seat in the Wisconsin legislature. Joining forces with me to form the best grassroots campaign the state had ever seen were Susan Menge, Jenny Vosters, Lauren Breithaupt, Jared Guzman, Michael Welhouse, Jeff Dercks, and Dan Brellenthin—and my own daughters and son. Ellen Breithaupt led our voter-list brigade, and Evie and Bob Kettner, the owners of Mr. and Mrs. K’s Restaurant, held countless town meetings in Greenville.

In the summer of 2000, I went door-to-door, asking the people for their confidence and trust to represent them in the state legislature. I was battle-tested, as they say, from my pioneering days with charter schools.

My old “pals” at the teachers union would be there, too, ready to “reward” me for passing that landmark legislation for public charter school reform—they would spend forty thousand dollars against me in my own Republican primary, and countless more dollars against me in the general election.

As luck would have it, my constituents were looking for something different, rather than the same old politics. The voters of the Fifty-sixth House Assembly District would stand with me in 2000, proving that it wasn’t about the money. Our band of citizen leaders and volunteers would carry us to victory.

I became a state legislator at my swearing-in in January 2001. Now, it was my turn to represent the people who elected me….To continue reading this chapter, get your copy of “What Sex is a Republican in paperback or Kindle edition on Amazon.

About the Author:

Terri McCormick is an author, policy expert, educator, and former state representative to the Wisconsin State Legislature. Today, she offers her expertise in public and government relations through McCormick Dawson CPG Ltd., a trusted consultancy of independent contractors.

Ms. McCormick serves as president and CEO of the company, drawing from more than two decades of professional experience, a strong educational foundation, a host of industry-related publications, and a multitude of accolades, awards and formal recognitions. Holding a Master of Arts in administrative leadership from Marian University, and a Bachelor of Science in political science and public administration from the University of Wisconsin, Ms. McCormick received both degrees with high honors.

“What Sex is a Republican?” is sold on Amazon in both the paperback edition as well as Kindle editionRead reviews on Amazon here.

Terri McCormick honored for excellence in government relations by Cambridge's Who's Who industry experts