In an emotional address on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Wyoming’s junior U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis paid tribute to late Leland Christensen, a former state legislator who served as her state director.
Christensen, died on Feb. 4 in an Idaho Falls, Idaho, hospital following a battle with cancer and a subsequent COVID-19 infection.
“I am just profoundly sad,” Lummis said with her voice wavering. “And also humble and proud to honor the memory of a cherished son of Wyoming.”
“More than anything, I rise to honor my longtime friend Leland Christensen,” she said.
Lummis, who had been close friends with Christensen for decades, discussed her trips with Christensen and her daughter, Annaliese, into the Wyoming backcountry, including Yellowstone’s Thorofare area, which is the most remote place in the lower 48 states.
She said Leland often went on search and rescue missions in wilderness areas in the region because he knew them “like the back of his hand.”
“He rescued people in swollen rivers, he rescued their horses,” she said. “He was a totally unique human being.
Lummis said Christensen’s passing was unique in that there were few deaths that affected her as “deeply.”
“Truly, his death cuts me to the depth of my heart,” she said.
Describing Christensen as “all Wyoming,” she said he was “tough as nails, endlessly patient and unwaveringly kind.”
“Rarely do I come across someone whose sincere humility, generosity, and selflessness come close to those of Leland Christensen,” Lummis said. “Every day spent with Leland was a better day.”
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.
Christensen’s son 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 hospital and was in a medically-induced coma since late December.
Leland is survived by wife Anita, five children, and 13 grandchildren.