By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
Former State Sen. Leland Christensen died on on Friday morning at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center at the age of 62.
Christensen passed-on due to complications from the COVID-19 virus.
“We were hoping Dad was going to wake up today but in the night he passed peacefully on to the next life surrounded by family,” Leland’s son Hunter said.
On a GoFundMe page created to help the Christensen family with medical expenses, Hunter said, “Thank you to all of you for your love and faith and true friendship. Thank you for your help so that his family could cover medical expenses that are not covered by insurance. We will post details about memorial services when arrangements are made. Love you all!”
Christensen served two terms as state senator representing Teton County. Before then, he had a distinguished 20-year career as a deputy sheriff for Teton County.
The Alta native served as a Teton County commissioner from 2005 to 2011 and served with the 19th Special Forces Airborne Army and the National Guard for 15 years.
In 2016, Christensen ran for U.S. Congress, coming in second to now-U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.
In 2019, Christensen was appointed by Gov. Mark Gordon as Deputy Director for Wyoming’s Office of Homeland Security and in 2021 U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis appointed him as her state director.
“Leland’s death cuts me to the depths of my heart,” Senator Lummis said. “Leland was all Wyoming. He was tough as nails, endlessly patient, unwaveringly kind.”
“When I was elected to the US Senate, I knew I needed Leland on my team because he loved Wyoming people. He loved to help his fellow man. He cared about the challenges our state and its people face. His smile would light up every room and his laugh was infectious,” she said.
“He was a joy to be around. He was my dear friend. He even guided my daughter and me into the Teton Wildnerness alongside his own family, on horseback. By every estimation he was ten feet tall and bulletproof. But, in His own good time, God calls all his children home to be of service there,” Lummis said.
“Leland prepared for his service in heaven each and every day, throughout his entire life in Wyoming. I am mourning his loss with his wife Anita, children Hunter, Brittany, Simone, Jed and Wyatt, their spouses and his grandchildren. My staff and I, along with the entire Wyoming community, are all praying for them,” she said.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon called Leland a kind and committed public servant and a good friend.
“I am grateful for his service in the Legislature and as Deputy Director of the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security. He will be deeply missed,” Gordon said.
Earlier this month, longtime friend and senate colleague Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) called Leland his “best friend” and “one the finest people” he had ever met.
On Friday, Driskill told Cowboy State Daily that Leland “…truly left a mark of a leader on WYOMING. Don’t know a person who knew him who didn’t respect him. Really lived and embodied the Code of the West.”
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney on Friday said, “Very sad to learn of the passing of Leland Christensen. Leland served our country in uniform, the community as a County Commissioner, and our great state as a legislator. Leland will be missed and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Hunter said his father contracted COVID in December and was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 19.
Leland was subsequently moved to the intensive care unit in an Idaho Falls, Idaho, hospital and was in a medically-induced coma since late December.
Leland is survived by wife Anita, five children, and 13 grandchildren.