Progressive Democrat Sheila Hixson, former Maryland Ways and Means chairwoman and state delegate, passed away Sunday, the Conservative Brief reported. She was 89 years old.
The retired lawmaker had been living with one of her daughters in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she died. Hixson had been in poor health though no cause of death was provided.
Hixson had served in Montgomery County District 20 for 43 years, which gave her the distinction of being the longest-serving woman in Maryland's state capitol. She was also a congressional staffer, lobbyist, Democratic strategist, and volunteer at the Democratic National Committee.
At the time of her retirement in 2017, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) praised Hixson for her tenacity. "She’s not one of those liberals who’s in politics to fight a valiant, losing battle and then sing Joan Baez songs when it’s all over," Raskin said at the time. "When she believes in a cause, she wants to go out and win it — and do what is necessary to win," he added.
On Monday, Raskin and other Maryland Democrats, such as Dels. David Moon, Lorig Charkoudian, Jheanelle Wilkins along with Sen. William Smith announced her passing in a statement. "We are grateful for her impassioned life of service and her enduring contributions to the dynamic political culture of District 20, where her Breakfast Club was always the center of the action, the good-government politics of Montgomery County, and progressive legislative change in the state of Maryland," they wrote.
"Sheila believed in the power of government to be an instrument of common prosperity and the agent of excellent constituent service. She listened to and valued the voice of the people," the statement said.
Hixson was a Democratic activist and Michigan native who moved in the 1960s to the Washington, D.C., area. She began her official political career as an appointment to the House of Delegates in 1976.
She was re-elected to the position nine times and made her way into a political landscape that was male-dominated at the time. She was elevated to the Ways and Means committee by fellow Democrat and then-Speaker Clay Mitchell, where she made her mark.
The position, which included overseeing taxation, election laws, and education policy, raised her profile as a determined Democrat who brought her progressive ideas to Maryland politics. She was also remembered for hosting Annapolis's St. Patrick's Day party, which became a local tradition.
"Montgomery County lost one of our great leaders," said Democrat County Executive Marc Elrich. "We are a better community because of her decades of public service," he added.
"Our County and State’s growth, diversity, and success is a result of her hard work and dedication. We will never forget this historic and trailblazing figure," Erlich said.
The Democratic Party is almost unrecognizable today compared to how it was in Hixson's day. Perhaps it was better that her passing came just before some of the worst of the modern Democrats won their important midterm elections.