The consulting community is mourning the sudden loss of April Hackney who passed away in Anchorage last week.
Hackney, who served as president of Hackney & Hackney, Inc., was a veteran of some 200 campaigns at all levels, including the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and, during the 2016 cycle, Marco Rubio.
She joined the firm, then an advertising agency called Holden Hackney & Holmstrom, in the mid-1980s after rolling into Anchorage in her Mustang with only $100 in her pocket.
April, a native of Sitka, Alaska, rose from receptionist to administrative assistant to production manager before marrying Art Hackney, then a partner.
Art later served as CEO of the GOP firm the couple ran together. He posted about April’s passing on Facebook. “Still having a hard time accepting that this vibrant person is gone,” he wrote.
Described by friends and colleagues as vivacious, April was hard to miss at industry events, recalled Tracy Dietz, CEO of the DonorBureau.
“Everyone who knew her loved her,” she said. “She always made a room brighter.”
April was a mentor to Dietz, starting when she was 25 and new to the industry. “I always felt like she was on my team. It didn’t matter what I was going through, she was always there to listen.”
Dietz added: “She was a creative genius and a force in politics.”
Tom Edmonds, who worked with April while Art was a partner in his DC firm in the early 2000s, recalled she had an eye for detail.
“Whether it was the center piece on a fundraiser table, or the background in a television commercial, she saw things that others missed,” said Edmonds, a longtime GOP media consultant. “April had her own style, from what she wore to the layout of a print ad.”
Many consultants who knew the couple called them inseparable, including Mark Mellman, who served in the leadership of the AAPC at the same time as Art.
“It's impossible for me to think of Art without April. They were literally inseparable, and as deeply in love as any couple I've ever seen,” he told C&E. “I'm certain April's memory will be a blessing to Art and to everyone who had the privilege of knowing her.”
Mellman got the news of April’s passing while with a group of other consultants in London. “We were all totally shocked and deeply saddened,” he said.
Art, whose father was a state lawmaker who ran for governor, and April were married in 1990 – a year they handled 19 campaigns.
Their career included a stint on then-Texas Gov. Bush’s presidential campaign, starting in the exploratory period of 1999. They later served on the national finance committee when the campaign became formal.
During the 2000 RNC in Philadelphia, April served as a delegate whip. Her connection with Bush extended beyond his time in office. A skilled fundraiser herself, she became a donor to the George W. Bush Presidential Center. In honor of her contribution, she received a plaque in the center's courtyard at Dallas’s Southern Methodist University.
In 2001, the couple moved to DC where they joined what became Edmonds Hackney & Associates, which had offices on Capitol Hill.
Still, their work took them home to Alaska, where they handled the campaigns of the entire congressional delegation, including then-Sen. Frank Murkowski’s run for governor.
After four years in DC, they returned to Alaska to help Lisa Murkowski, who her father named to his Senate seat, with her first campaign.
Beyond their campaign work, the couple was active in the industry’s trade associations. April was a key organizer of the annual Pollie Conference while Art served in the leadership of the AAPC. They also were active in the IAPC, where April co-chaired the trade group's 45th Annual Convention in New York City.
“April Hackney was a bright, bubbly, vivacious, smart woman,” said Nancy Tood, the IAPC’s current president. “I feel blessed to have known her. We were polar opposites politically, but when we got into an IAPC meeting or an AAPC function — or the bar at either one of those — we were sisters.”
Other practitioners have similarly warm memories.
“Whether you were working with her or against her, you could not help liking, respecting and admiring April Hackney,” said Marty Stone, a Democratic phones consultant.
“I cannot remember a time that I did not smile when I saw her because she was already smiling. She was a pioneer in our industry, and she will be missed.”
April died suddenly in the early morning of March 14 after being brought to the hospital by her husband, who was at her bedside. She was 54.
Art Hackney is planning a celebration of life service March 24 at the Anchorage home of former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield.