Former Rep. Jan Meyers, the first Republican woman to represent Kansas in the House, died Friday, daughter Valerie Meyers told CNN on Tuesday. The younger Meyers said her mother died of heart complications.
The Kansas Republican is remembered for her unwavering fiscal conservatism, but also for her occasionally progressive social stances that would put her at odds with her party. Meyers’ support for the pro-choice movement and gun control was considered unusual for Republicans, especially during her congressional tenure in the 1980s and ’90s
Meyers’ political views were centered on her passion for women’s issues and including women in politics, according to Michael Murray, her former chief of staff.
“Jan Meyers was a pioneer in the movement for more women to hold public office,” Murray said. “She was on the vanguard of that entire movement.”
Meyers’ political career began as a member of the Overland Park City Council, before serving in the Kansas State Senate for more than a decade. In 1984, she announced her campaign to run for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District seat, representing the smallest district of the state’s four, an election that she won.
In the first few years after Meyers took office in 1985, she served on the Committee on Science and Technology and the Foreign Affairs Committee.
However, the committee in which Meyers truly left her mark was the Small Business Committee. As a member, she demonstrated her fiscal conservatism through her push to decrease taxes for small businesses, exempt them from minimum wage laws and decrease health care deductions for the self-employed to 100%, according to her House biography.
When Republicans took control of the House in 1994, she became the chair of the Small Business Committee, which made her the first Republican to chair that committee since 1955. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, the current chair of the committee, fondly remembered her time working under Meyers.
“Jan Meyers was a trailblazer who often worked across the aisle and, most importantly, strived to put her constituents’ interests first,” Velázquez told CNN in a statement. “While we came from different parties and didn’t agree on every issue, I always admired her passion, honesty and steadfast dedication to public service. I’ll certainly hold all her friends and family members in my thoughts.”
In 1996, Meyers decided not to run for reelection, and her 12-year run in Congress ended in 1997.
Current Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts said the impact that Meyers made stays with him today.
“Congresswoman Meyers was a trusted colleague, but most importantly a friend. I always looked up to Jan and depended on her advice and counsel during my time serving alongside her in Congress,” Roberts said in a statement. “She was kind, caring, honest and extremely well respected in not only the 3rd District, but the entire state.”