Governor Tom Vilsack’s former chief-of-staff and a former advisor to President Bill Clinton died this weekend of what police say was a suicide. Fifty-nine-year-old Stephen Gleason of Des Moines was a political insider and a respected physician. Gleason was a top administrator at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines when he was invited to help the Clinton’s develop a new national health care policy in the early 1990s.
Later, Gleason worked for Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack, first as Vilsack’s Department of Public Health director then as the governor’s chief of staff. Gleason left that job in 2004 due to health problems. Gleason’s achievements in medicine and politics were overshadowed by addiction in the end. An addiction to prescription drugs that Gleason had kicked two decades ago hit Gleason again as he struggled with his health.
Earlier this year, Gleason had checked into a substance abuse treatment program. On Sunday, Governor Tom Vilsack issued a written statement, calling Gleason a “passionate and caring public servant” who “made many contributions to state and federal government.” Vilsack said Gleason was not only a counselor, but a friend and Vilsack said he was “deeply saddened” by Gleason’s death.