By Karl Kurtz
NCSL and the state legislative and civic education communities mourn the death of Janet Buxton Goehring, NCSL staffer and great advocate for state legislatures through her work with the Trust for Representative Democracy. She died on March 4, 2013, at age 55.
Jan received a B.A. degree from Stanford University and a J.D. from the University of Denver. Before joining NCSL, she was a federal judicial clerk and an assistant city attorney in Denver and Santa Clara County, Calif., focusing on child abuse and neglect, domestic violence and juvenile cases.
She first came to NCSL in 1996 and worked as a policy analyst on transportation issues. Her legal training and writing skills stood her in good stead as a smart analyst of complex policy issues for state legislators and legislative staff.
In 1999, Jan began working with me to establish NCSL's Trust for Representative Democracy, a public education and outreach program designed to improve public understanding of state legislatures and Congress. Jan led the creation of the flagship program of the Trust, the America's Legislators Back to School program that encourages all state legislators to go into schools and teach about what it's like to be a lawmaker. Together we built a multi-media curriculum for age groups ranging from second grade to adults around the theme, "Representative democracy works, not perfectly but better than any conceivable alternative form of government."
Jan recruited, trained and managed a remarkable network of legislative staff in all 50 states who serve as Back to School program coordinators, aiding legislators in connecting with schools, students and classrooms. The Back to School program relies on the volunteer contributions of the coordinators, and Jan was invaluable in supporting and organizing their work. The program has reached more than 2 million students.
Jan and I had a great partnership. I had ideas, concepts and strategies. She had action, discipline, practicality, and a get-it-done approach. She also had great suggestions about what would work in the classroom and with students through her own experiences with young people.
Jan was a prolific contributor to The Thicket, authoring more than 100 posts on the Trust, civic education and Arizona politics (her state liaison responsibility).
Alan Rosenthal, the Rutgers University political scientist who helped inspire the creation of the Trust for Representative Democracy, said Jan was a "wonderful person who touched many lives. She was collaborative, supportive and easy to work with. The greatest way we can honor her memory is to continue her work in improving public understanding of representative democracy."
March 6 update: Lee Hamilton, director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, former member of Congress and a partner in our work on education about representative democracy, said, "We admired and enjoyed the creativity and congeniality that Jan brought to every task. She believed strongly that the future of our representative democracy hinges on young people understanding government and participating constructively in politics. Connecting with each new generation of Americans and inspiring them to be active, informed citizens--that was Jan's passion."
During her year-long battle with cancer, Jan wrote a blog about her experience with this dreadful disease. Hundreds of her friends, family and colleagues in the state legislative and civic education communities followed and supported her travails through her blog and were inspired by her faith, strength and love.
She leaves her husband, Jeff, and son, Daniel. Her family has also posted a Jan's Celebrationn of Life website.
Farewell, Jan. We miss you.