When Jessica Gault got the letter last month, she thought she was in trouble.
“When I opened it and first started reading it, I was in shock,” she said.
It was a letter signed by Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who was sending her condolences.
Gault, of Whitewater, was the subject of a Gazette story in September on the pain that loved ones feel after an overdose death. Gault’s boyfriend, Joshua R. Syck, died one day before his 35th birthday in 2017.
Gault found him on the UW-Whitewater campus, just a minutes-long walk from their apartment at the time.
Upon receiving the letter, she said she was “astounded” that someone in government read her story and felt her and the Syck family’s pain.
“Dear Jessica,” the Nov. 15 letter opened. “I would like to give my sincerest condolences to you and to all your family and friends that have been affected by the tragic loss of your boyfriend, Joshua.”
Syck was one of 72,000 drug overdose deaths nationally in 2017. Those deaths left a countless number of people such as Gault struggling to get through each agonizing day without their loved ones.
Syck was one of 75 drug-related deaths in Walworth County from 2014 to 2017.
“The strength that you are displaying during this time of grief and through your efforts to bring about awareness by sharing your story, is truly admirable,” Kleefisch wrote.
Kleefisch could not be reached for this story. Her spokeswoman, Julie Grace, said in a Nov. 29 email that Kleefisch sends hundreds of letters each year to people across the state.
“Many of these come from reading news articles that either touches her in some way or deals with an issue she cares deeply about,” Grace said.
One element of the letter that stood out to Gault was how Kleefisch said she would keep her story in mind when meeting with policy officials. Kleefisch is co-chairwoman of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, which led to several pieces of legislation.
“That meant the absolute world to me,” Gault said.
In the letter, Kleefisch said she would do “all I can to help implement the changes needed to stop another family from going through the loss of a loved one taken by an overdose.”
Kleefisch soon will no longer be the lieutenant governor, however. Wisconsin voters elected Mandela Barnes and Tony Evers to fill the state’s top posts.
Going forward, Kleefisch told The Cap Times in a Wednesday story that in 2019 she plans “to champion the same spirit of opportunity and civic engagement that marked our foremothers’ fight for women’s suffrage a century ago.”
Gault is awaiting the trials of Jeremy D. Meyer and Kori L. Kincaid, who stand accused of delivering the drugs that killed Syck.
Both trials are scheduled for February.
In the meantime, Gault said she soon will mail her response to Kleefisch. She first had her old English teacher proofread it to make sure it was fit for the lieutenant governor’s office.