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Lobbyist Remembers Her Long-Time Friend

January 16, 2012, 6:15 PM by Brady Mallory

Lobbyist Remembers Her Long-Time Friend
Bill Janklow

PIERRE, SD - Bill Janklow spent more time in Pierre than any other governor. And during that time, Janklow struck up some unexpected friendships.

If you ask anyone at the Capitol, they can tell you Kitty Werthmann is as much of a staple in the building as some of the old pictures on the walls. She says she met Janklow years ago, before anyone called him governor. The two were brought together by a passion for the same cause and remained friends as he became a leader in South Dakota.

Janklow had quite the nickname for lobbyist Kitty Werthmann.

"He called me his street walker because I walked the streets campaigning for him. We laughed about it," Werthmann said.

Laughter and good memories are providing comfort for Werthmann because the man she campaigned for was a good friend.

"He really was the man how people described him. He had a heart of gold," Werthmann said.

Werthmann met Janklow in the 1970s when she was lobbying against efforts to fund abortion in the state of South Dakota. Back then, he was working for the attorney general's office and would not have the pull at the Capitol he would have later on. The unknown man was just another face in the crowd.

"The room was very hot. No air conditioning," Werthmann said.

But Janklow spoke up, and Werthmann heard him loud and clear.

"He said, 'I'm Bill Janklow. I work in the Attorney General's office.' And he pointed at the abortionists and said, 'You should all be ashamed of yourselves wanting to use tax money to kill babies.' Immediately a hush fell over the room. You could've heard a pin drop. I thought, 'This man has a lot of courage,'" Werthmann said.

Werthmann said she knew she had to meet him. She searched for his phone number, but soon found it was unlisted. Weeks later, she was able to get ahold of him. She encouraged him to run for political office.

In 1979, Werthmann's 23-year-old son was killed in a car crash. On the morning of his funeral, the politician she supported came to support her.

"8:30 and the doorbell rang and there was Bill Janklow," Werthermann said. "He said, 'I immediately thought you needed a friend to come see you,'" Werthmann said.

Werthmann is still a powerhouse at the Capitol come legislative season. As she champions for issues important to her, she says South Dakota lost one of its own champions.

"I was just... something that I.. lost somebody whom I so admired." Werthmann said.

The story about Werthmann searching for Janklow's unlisted phone number is said to be a well-known story that many other people who lobby really cherish.

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