Remembering Megan McGrorty

Running for reelection is no fun. When you run the first time you have no record to attack and there’s the excitement of being new and representing change and the future.

But when you run for reelection it’s all about you — and not in a good way. Your opponent spends every minute of every day trying, and often succeeding in, making you look bad. Because you’ve had to make countless decisions where somebody has to lose, you’ve made enemies, even among old friends. It’s pretty awful.

It was Megan McGrorty who got me through all that in 2007. Megan was my campaign manager. Only 26-years old, she had the toughness of an old union boss and the love of the game of an old Irish pol. She berated me for being a lazy candidate, then she tried to cajole me into doing my “call time” (begging people for money) and, when all else failed, she bribed me. “Just do three more calls and you can have a beer.”

One time she dragged me to The Curve, a greasy spoon on Park Street, at breakfast time. I was supposed to work the crowd, but I never wanted to work a crowd and especially not first thing in the morning. She finally just threw up her hands. “You are the most reluctant politician I have ever met,” she told me, and tucked into her pancakes. I didn’t want to disappoint Megan, so I worked the room a little bit. I got a fairly nice reaction and even started to enjoy it.

In the end, it all worked out. Megan dragged me across the finish line and we won easily.

When she passed away at only 41 a couple of weeks ago, I learned things about her that I never knew. She was an artist and an actor as well as a pol. That didn’t surprise me. I could tell that beneath the tough and jovial, love of the game, exterior, there was a sensitive person who took the attacks on me more to heart than I did.

Combining a talent for politics with the soul of an artist has to be a difficult thing. One endeavor requires the skin of a rhinoceros while the other makes you so vulnerable.

Megan and I kept in touch a little bit since 2007. Usually she was hitting me up for her latest passion and good cause. She was no mercenary. She worked for things she believed in. I’m honored that for a few short months, 14 years ago, I was her cause.

Below is the lovely obituary from her family.

MIAMI—Megan Mary McGrorty, age 41, whose enthusiasm, adventurous spirit, and creative force brought a sparkle into the lives of her family and friends, died unexpectedly at her home in Miami, Fla., on Aug. 18, 2021.

Megan was a deeply loved daughter, sister, niece and loyal friend. She was unafraid to speak her mind, dressed brightly and acted boldly, and believed that through her art and political career she could make the world a more just and fair place. Her sharp wit and quirky sense of humor put smiles on countless faces throughout her whole life. She will be missed by the communities she built everywhere she went, including in Wisconsin, California, Oregon, and Florida.

Megan, born on May 1, 1980, was a joyful and artistic soul even at a young age. She made her family laugh with her silliness and bright smile. Her creativity took her to Milwaukee’s Roosevelt Middle School for the Arts and later to Pius XI Catholic High School, which nurtured her talent in the arts and cemented lifelong friendships.

In college Megan studied theatre, visual arts and dance, but after volunteering with her uncle, Randy, and sister, Michelle, on several state political campaigns, she also dove headlong into politics. Megan graduated with a degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin- Madison.

She worked in campaign roles for former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, former state senator Lynn Adelman, then congresswoman and now US Senator Tammy Baldwin, and countless others. She was dedicated to helping elect women to office and served as a director of Emerge Wisconsin. She was honored to be involved with several presidential campaigns, including Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

But her passion for the arts remained. She performed in many plays, including with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. She had a specialconnection to the vision of David Lynch and createdtwo short films and plays based on his work. At the time of her death, her two passions had merged—she was working on a documentaryfilm about women in politics.

Megan carved out her own path in life. It was not always simple or easy, and she faced challenges. But she lived this life with verve and curiosity. Her family and friends will miss her bright light, but are comforted in knowing she left her unique stamp eternally in their hearts. She was also a loving “dog mama” to her sweet pup, Bo Brady, who passed away in January. Her tenderness and compassionate spirit were clearly on display in the loving way she cared for Bo Brady over many years.

Megan is survived by her mother, Janet McGrorty of Milwaukee; her sister, Michelle McGrorty of Madison; her sister, Rockel Hernandez of Muskego; and countless other family members. She had a special bond with her uncles, Joe and Randy McGrorty. She was preceded in death by her father, Rocky McGrorty; and grandparents, Charlotte and Walter Kowalski and Hugh and Beverly McGrorty.

A memorial will be held on Monday, Sept. 13 at GOODMAN BRASSWORKS BUILDING, 214 Waubesa St., Madison, WI. A memorial service will begin at 6 p.m., with a reception to follow. A Zoom option is available for those unable to attend in person. Please contact the family for Zoom info or see Megan’s Facebook page. In honor of Megan’s vivacious sense of style and her creative spirit, we encourage attendees to feel free to dress without concern for “traditional black.” In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to organizations that meant so much to Megan—Emerge Wisconsin or Black Lives Matter. The family is greatly comforted by happy memories of Megan and invites you to share your best memories of her with them.

This is the 202nd consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

One thought on “Remembering Megan McGrorty

  1. Thank you Dave. As Megan’s mother I am comforted by the interesting and funny stories that I hear. She was our family’s comedienne. ❤


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: