Oregon lawmaker Gary Leif remembered a lawmaker who listened to it all


Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, was remembered Thursday as a man who stood up for his community and was loved by people from all political walks of life, at a time when it became a rare quality.

Leif died Thursday. He was 64 years old.

In December, Leif’s doctors told him he was dying of cancer and had three months to live, but he never made that public.

One of the few who did know was Larry Rich, mayor of Roseburg and director of communications for Leif.

Rich said Leif was determined to get through the 2021 legislative session.

“He was going to do his best until the end,” he said.

Leif has had a long career in public service.

He had been a member of the Winston Planning Commission and in 1985 he was appointed Winston’s first citizen. Among his many community projects over the years, he has served as Chairman of the Douglas County CASA, Board Member of the United Community Action Network, Chairman of the Downtown Roseburg Association, and Chairman of the Downtown Development Board.

He operated a photography studio in downtown Roseburg for over 40 years.

In 2014, he made his first run for Douglas County Commissioner, but lost to Chris Boice. In 2016, he ran for a separate seat on the committee again and won.

“Gary showed up on his first day as County Commissioner, ready to go. His enthusiasm for serving this county was infectious and he worked hard during his tenure as County Commissioner, ”said Boice.

The resignation of former Senator Jeff Kruse in 2018 has changed the political game. Dallas Heard left his seat of House District 2 and took Kruse’s seat in the Senate, and Leif was nominated to take the seat of District 2.

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In 2018, Leif was elected to continue in that seat, and he was handily re-elected in 2020, with 72% of the vote.

“I’m a moderate and I don’t hesitate to tell people that, but what I really love this time around is that I’m working for everyone in southern Oregon,” Leif told The News-Review shortly after this election.

Leif loved being a lawmaker, Rich said.

“He said it was the best job he’s ever had. He loved serving, and of all the things he did – the curatorial job, the photography business – he said it was the most exciting and fun job he’s ever done, ” Rich said.

One of her strengths was the ability to talk to anyone.

Rich remembers being introduced by Leif to the Legislature and observing him in conversation with people from both sides. It was clear that he had a good relationship with them all, he said.

“Gary is really good at mingling with people, no matter who they are, no matter what party they belong to, he was good at it,” he said. “He would definitely listen to anyone and be ready to have a conversation.”

One of his goals was to complete the 2021 legislative session. It wasn’t easy for him, Rich said. He was exhausted, but he continued anyway.

He was especially proud that he was able to bring home dollars to help his district.

Gary Leif shakes hands with County Clerk Patricia Hitt after being sworn in as Douglas County Commissioner at the Douglas County Courthouse in December 2016.

The largest of these was $ 1.5 million for a low-barrier homeless shelter, or navigation center, in Roseburg.

Other accomplishments include securing $ 1.25 million for a sewer improvement on Douglas Avenue in Roseburg and $ 575,000 for the January landslide at Umpqua Community College.

For many, the news of Leif’s passing came completely out of the blue.

“I am sorry by this news,” Speaker of the House of Representatives Tina Kotek said on Twitter on Thursday. “Gary was (a) champion for his district and a lovely man. My prayers are with his family and his community.

“Roseburg lost one of their great champions today. Gary was a good person. Everyone loved him. He liked to be a legislator and he was good. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, ”said State Senate Speaker Peter Courtney.

Douglas County Republican Party Chairman Valynn Currie has said Leif will be sadly missed by the community and difficult to replace as a representative.

“We have lost a man and a truth seeker who gave it all and he loved this community,” said Currie.

“I thought Gary had done a good job both as a county commissioner and as a legislator. His role as lawmaker, he was in such a difficult position in the House of Representatives with Republicans in the minority, but he still did what he could, ”said Fred Dayton, former chairman of the County of Republican Party. Douglas. .

Former United Community Action Network director Mike Fieldman, who has worked with Leif on housing issues in the legislature, said Leif has a good heart.

“He really was someone who cared deeply about our community and worked tirelessly to make it a better place and he really loved what he was doing. He has often said that he really enjoys being a legislator so that he can have a positive impact on our community. So it will be a real loss for our community, and it will be a loss for me personally, ”he said.

Many remember Leif as a kind man and the photographer who took the family portraits and yearbook photos, and there was a surge of love and heartbreak on Facebook after the announcement of the death of Leif.

“Oh my God, this is horribly tragic. He’s been taking pictures of my children since 1998. He will be sorely missed,” wrote Dawn Michelle Stewart Severns.

“Always a warm welcome and a sincere desire to help his community. He will be missed, ”wrote Bruce Justis.

“It’s so sad to hear. He took my senior photos and I still have one hanging in my house. He will be sadly missed. He was a great man who really did great things, ”wrote Jennifer Newman.

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