GOP consultant Paul Welday dies at 57

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Michigan Republicans and Democrats alike are mourning the sudden death of prominent Oakland County GOP consultant Paul Welday, whose career in government and politics spanned more than three decades.

Family friends and colleagues in Michigan politics confirmed Tuesday the 57-year-old Farmington Hills man died Monday of an apparent heart attack.

“He was just always a dear friend and a warrior for our party,” said Jamie Roe, a Republican political consultant from Macomb County. “He’d go out there and work his tail off for this party. It’s a shocking and terrible loss.”

Welday was former U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg’s longtime chief of staff and served in a variety of Oakland County and Michigan Republican Party leadership roles.

Aspiring politicians would seek counsel from Welday, who was known for his ability to articulate both sides of an issue.

“If you were involved in politics in southeast Michigan, you had to know Paul Welday ... whether you were a Republican or Democrat,” said state Rep. Kurt Heise, a Plymouth Republican whose legislative aide, Valerie Knol, is Welday’s wife.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said Tuesday he was “heartsick” to learn of Welday’s death.

“They just don’t make them like Paul anymore, no one had a bigger heart or sharper intellect,” Upton said in a statement.

State Sen. Marty Knollenberg, son of the former congressman, said it was Welday, not his dad, who encouraged him to get into politics.

“A lot of people wouldn’t be in politics today had it not been for Paul Welday,” said Knollenberg, R-Troy.

Knollenberg, an insurance salesman, said Welday was his first customer when he graduated from college.

“He’s actually the longest client that I have had, but that is really because of the friendship he had for me and my parents and my wife and my brother,” Knollenberg said.

Roe said Welday was his mentor when he arrived in Washington, D.C., to be chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township.

“The thing about Paul, politics is a team sport and he’s the epitome of a team player,” Roe said.

Welday was a partner at the Lansing public affairs firm Superior Capitol Consulting as well as senior counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based government affairs firm Watts Partners. He recently launched a campaign for the Oakland County water resources commissioner post.

Welday’s passing triggered an outpouring of tributes on Facebook.

“Paul Welday lived a life of community and public service. He is missed already,” Lt. Gov. Brian Calley wrote on Facebook.

Political consultant Fred Wszolek also took note of Welday’s mentorship of others.

“One of the best gifts you can give someone is the gift of mentorship,” Wszolek wrote on Facebook. “By that standard, judging from my (Facebook) feed this morning, Paul Welday was one of the most generous men around.”

Welday also had friends in the Democratic Party who admired his political tenacity.

“We were friends, the way people are supposed to be in politics,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, who has appeared on TV and radio talk shows with Welday over the years. “He could be as political as they come in fighting for what he believed in, but I will tell you he loved his country.”

Former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer sparred with Welday over the years.

“Although Paul & I disagreed on politics, he was never disagreeable & I enjoyed our interactions. I shall miss him,” Brewer wrote on Twitter.

Welday is survived by his wife and two children, Nicholas and Natalie.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood