By Jacqueline Charles via The Miami Herald
She was a prominent player in several headline-making events, from an advocacy campaign to liberate nearly 300 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls to stopping deportations to remembering Miami-Dade’s Black victims of the pandemic.
But even as Shirlee Marie Moreau Lafleur built a reputation as a go-to congressional staffer during more than decade of service in one of Florida’s neediest House districts, she shunned the limelight, preferring instead to let her elected bosses take the mic.
Lafleur died on March 22 at the age of 51. The cause of death was liver cancer, said U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami.
“Shirlee’s intellect, relationships, political acumen — and her heart — enabled her to change the lives of my constituents and others across our nation and the world,” said Wilson, who Lafleur worked for the last 10 years. “She was able to perform miracles that almost no one else could perform…because of the relationships she had built.”
A devoted public servant, Lafleur was previously a staffer for Congressman Kendrick Meek, whom she followed from the Florida Senate in Tallahassee to the halls of Congress in 2003. He vacated the House seat in 2010 to run for the U.S. Senate. Wilson replaced him, and in an unusual move, kept three of Meek’s staff. Lafleur was one of them.
“The void I feel from losing my friend and colleague of 23 years will never be filled,” said Joyce Postell, Wilson’s district director. “Shirlee was one of a kind and there was nothing she wouldn’t do to help others in need. Our community has suffered a great loss.”
Officially, Lafleur’s title was director of field operations. But she was the quintessential problem solver as she got locals out of immigration jams, passport mishaps and any number of requests that flowed into the district office.
“She developed a proficiency in helping people, solving problems,” said attorney Yolanda Cash Jackson, a partner at Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, who first met Lafleur in Tallahassee. “I think it had to do with her passion for her people as the daughter of immigrants, to make sure that that part was done well.”
In a district with one of the highest concentrations of Haitians in the United States, Lafleur’s Haitian heritage and extensive contacts were an invaluable asset. She helped both Meek and Wilson navigate Haiti’s tumultuous politics and provided counsel on how they should approach a myriad of issues arising in the district that includes Miami, Miami Gardens, Miramar, Pembroke Pines and Hollywood. Continue reading