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Leland Christensen

Casper Artist’s Drawing of Late Sen. Christensen Will Reside in Wyo Senate Chambers All Week

in News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

On first glance, the portrait Tim Mandese drew of late Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Jackson, looks almost like a photograph.

Mandese spent more than 30 hours working on a detailed portrait of the late state senator which will be given by Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, to Christensen’s family.

Christensen, who was being treated for cancer, died earlier this month after contracting COVID in December, when he was placed into a medically-induced coma. He is survived by his wife Anita, five children and 13 grandchildren.

This is not the first time Driskill has come to Mandese with a challenging drawing request.

“This is the fourth piece I’ve done for Ogden, and it’s intimidating to do, because Leland was his best friend,” Mandese said. “It’s a memorial portrait, so you want to get it right. But Ogden recently had me draw a photo of Gov. Gordon’s father at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo in 1965, so you know, no pressure.”

Driskill said he was “thrilled” with Mandese’s work on the other drawings he’s commissioned. He hasn’t seen the Christensen drawing in person yet but said he was impressed with the photos that Mandese has sent him.

“I think he’s absolutely incredible how he catches the life in the person,” Driskill said. “When Tim sent me the photo of Leland’s drawing, it brought a tear to my eye because it’s like looking at Leland. It’s that good.”

Mandese said the key to perfectly capturing Christensen’s lovable personality and affability is through the eyes, which are also the toughest portion to draw.

“If you don’t get the eyes right, you’re wasting your time on the rest of the portrait,” he said. “You can tell a person just by their eyes. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and it’s true. Once you get the eyes right, you know exactly who the person is.”



Driskill said Casper Sen. Drew Perkins will be taking the portrait down to Cheyenne and will place it in the senate chamber for the week. Driskill will then present the portrait to Christensen’s widow, Anita, at the funeral on February 26.

Mandese said he is excited to see the reaction to his work.

“It’s always nerve-wracking until you get the high sign from whoever commissioned the piece,” he said. “Photos just don’t do it justice, because you can’t see the subtleties or the shading on the actual portrait. It just looks much better in person.”

Mandese, who has taught art for 10 years in Tampa, says he is more proud of what his students have done than the works he completes.

He mentioned one of his former students who won an Academy Award for her work at Sony Pictures for 2019’s animated Spiderman cartoon “Into the Spiderverse”.

“It’s not necessarily what I do, it’s more of what I can help others do,” he said. “That’s a real accomplishment to me.”

Many have paid tribute to Christensen since his passing, including U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, Gov. Mark Gordon and Cowboy State Daily Editor Jimmy Orr.

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Sen. Lummis Pays Tribute to Late State Sen. Leland Christensen

in News/Cynthia Lummis
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

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.

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Leland Christensen: A Remarkable Man Who Brought Everyone Together

in Jimmy Orr/Column
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By Jimmy Orr, Editor-in-Chief

On the same day that Wyoming Republican Chair Frank Eathorne told FOX News that “in Wyoming, we don’t necessarily embrace the idea of a big tent,” the state GOP became a big tent.

In fact, that tent was even larger. Republicans of all stripes and Democrats came together.

It took the death of one man. One remarkable Wyoming man to open up that Wyoming tent.

Not everyone knew Leland Christensen, the 62-year-old former state senator, county commissioner, deputy sheriff, veteran, father of six, and grandfather of 13 who died on Friday.

But the many, many who did, saluted him. For one weekend, Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman were on the same side.

Arch foes Rod Miller and Joey Correnti were teammates.

Wyoming Equality Director Sara Burlingame and Rep. Dan Laursen (R-Powell) stood together.

Leland Christensen brought everyone together. That’s what he did.

I saw it firsthand. 

I went on the road with Leland and his sons Hunter and Wyatt during his 2016 congressional campaign.

Leland liked everyone. And everyone liked Leland right back.

Line Up With Leland

Our slogan was “Line Up With Leland.”  It could have been “Line Up With Laughter.”  Because laughter was our constant companion as Leland visited all 99 incorporated communities (and many non-incorporated ones) with friends in each town.

No hyperbole. I saw it happen.

He wanted to go door-to-door in every community. He loved being out on the road.

One evening, we were knocking on doors in Bairoil when Leland ran into a friend of his that he hadn’t seen in more than 30 years when the two went to law enforcement academy together.  We stayed there until 9:30 p.m. as the two former cops had us all in stitches talking about the old days.

From Aladdin to Point of Rocks, from Moorcroft to Evanston, Leland had a friend wherever he went.

The only place where Leland didn’t run into someone he knew was in Chugwater.  But that could be excused. It was 2 a.m.

Leland and I had been on the road for weeks and decided to cut a video. The lights went out in the middle of the shoot and that was enough to put us on the ground.

I dropped the video camera and the two of us were howling in the middle of Chugwater, in the middle of the night, for no real reason. Leland saw the humor in everything.

Being with him was like being a little kid with your best buddy in church. You aren’t supposed to laugh. But you can’t help it. And that’s what made it funnier.

Liz Cheney

Our consultant said we had to draw a distinction against his primary opponent and now U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, and polling showed that the residency angle was the best route.

So instead of a mean-spirited ad, Leland insisted on a softer touch. He couldn’t be mean. Let’s make ‘em laugh, Leland said.

So he compared Liz to Sasquatch — an elusive being that was rarely spotted in Wyoming.

It should have been a simple video.  But it took us a full day to shoot because every time he would act like he was on a safari searching for Liz — Leland, Wyatt, Hunter, and I would burst out laughing.

When news of Leland’s ill-health became public recently, Liz Cheney was among the first to wish him well.

That’s the kind of guy he was. Everyone loved Leland.

Town to Town

In Greybull, Wyoming, the owner of a restaurant couldn’t get Leland’s name right. She was an immigrant and in broken English, she kept saying “Lyeland” or “Luland” or “Layland.” 

She had a great sense of humor in her own right.

Cameras were rolling.  The restaurant was full. Everyone — every single person — was laughing.  Even she fell over laughing, smashing a chair in the process.

A train horn blasting in the middle of a video shoot typically isn’t a big deal. But when it happened to Leland and his buddy, Stan Blake, the former legislator from Green River, the two laughed uncontrollably. That led to Wyatt, Hunter, his wife Anita, and me all laughing uncontrollably.

Our second trip to Wamsutter was one of my favorites. Burnt out from the road, Leland drew a blank on what to say about the community.

“Hello Wamsutter,” Leland began. “Second time through Wamsutter. What a …. uhhhh, what am I supposed to say?”

After a couple laughs, Leland bounced back with a solid energy message. You can tell from the video just how fun Leland was and how he brought joy to everything.

Dominos

We were all dominos with Leland. If he thought something was humorous, you couldn’t resist it.

Leland brought that aura with him.  You saw him.  You smiled.  You saw him.  You laughed.  Most of all, if you saw him, you went up to him. You had to say hi. He was a magnet.

I hope Gov. Mark Gordon calls out Leland during his upcoming State of the State address because Wyoming will be able to see that, in fact, we all can stand together.

Just maybe, Leland’s influence will take us a bit further than just that.

It’s worth a try, anyway. 

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, his longtime friend, brought Leland onboard the minute she was elected because, as she put it, “I knew I needed Leland on my team because he loved Wyoming people.”

What a gift Wyoming had. What a gift Heaven has.

We all love you, buddy.  And we’ll all laugh again.

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Former State Sen. Leland Christensen in Medically-Induced Coma; Lummis, Cheney Send Encouragement

in News/Coronavirus
16546

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Former legislator and congressional candidate Leland Christensen is in a medically induced coma due to complications from COVID-19, family members told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Christensen’s son Hunter said his father, a former state senator from Teton County, 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 has been in a coma since late December.

Hunter said his father is making “baby steps” and added he is optimistic about his recovery.

“Leland had another relatively good day today,” Hunter said. “He continued to hold onto the progress he made last week and his lungs made another baby step in the right direction.”

What makes the recovery more difficult, Hunter said, was Leland’s ongoing but successful battle with cancer. 

“The doctors have told us that due to the chemo complications, it is going to be a long journey to recovery,” Hunter said.

Family friend Dana MacKenzie started a GoFundMe page on Sunday to assist with medical costs. As of Monday afternoon, more than $25,000 had been donated.

“The long ICU and hospital stay, medical bills and treatments keeping him with us have like many families burdened them with medical costs that are expected to be in far into 6 digits,” MacKenzie wrote on the page.

Hunter said the family has received messages of encouragement from friends all over the country as well as questions about what can be done to help. 

Prayer, he said.

“We know that many of you have asked whether there is something specific you could pray for — please pray that he will continue to be stable and build on the progress he has made so far,” Hunter wrote on the page.

Christensen, who served in the Wyoming Legislature for eight years, has served as state director for U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ office for the past year.

“Leland is Wyoming through and through,” Lummis told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

“He is the definition of a public servant, as a veteran, former sheriff and legislator, and now as my state director. He’s more than that though: He is a beloved husband and father, and a dear friend to me and so many others. We ask everyone in our state to join us in supporting Leland and his family with their prayers during this difficult time,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who ran against Leland in 2016 for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, also expressed encouragement.

“Leland is tough and a real fighter. We are praying for his full recovery and sending good thoughts and support to the Christensen family,” Cheney told Cowboy State Daily.

Longtime friend and Senate colleague Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) said he was going to visit Leland in the hospital this weekend. He said although it was doubtful he would be allowed in the same room, he wanted to show support for Christensen and his family.

“This brings tears to my eyes,” Driskill said. “I’ve never met in my life a finer person than Leland. I say that from the bottom of my heart.  He’s the best friend of my entire life.”

Former Rep. Tyler Lindholm, who served with Leland in the legislature, encouraged Wyoming citizens to donate to the GoFundMe page.

“This disease has attacked one of Wyoming’s finest. Thankfully he is still with us but needs our help more than ever. I’m thankful for the GoFundMe page so we can help the family. I’m doing that,” Lindholm said.

“Leland embodies Wyoming in so many ways including an inherent toughness,” said noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich.  Knowing Leland, that toughness will serve him well right now” 

Leland is a father of six children and a grandfather to 13 with another grandchild due in the spring.

Bank of Jackson Hole has created an account to directly support Christensen. For those who wish to avoid fees associated with GoFundMe, Bank of Jackson Hole has set up an account for the family to accept donations.

Anyone can contribute in any of our branches (Jackson, Wilson, Teton Village, Dubois, Pinedale and Alpine) and deposit money into that account (Account name: FBO Leland Christensen). BoJH can also accept donations by mail at P O Box 7000, Jackson, WY 83002.

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Ransomware attack still affecting Campbell County Health

in News/Health care
Ransomware attack
2092

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

A ransomware virus attack on Campbell County Health continued to plague its computer network, causing disruptions in service to Campbell County Hospital and connected systems on Monday. 

According to Kelly Ruiz, public information officer with the Department of Homeland Security in Cheyenne, two other institutions, both connected to Campbell County Health, were also affected by the attack. 

One was the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center in Gillette, a long-term care and short-term rehabilitation facility, Ruiz said. The other, according to Dane Joslyn, CCH public information officer, was Wright Clinic and Occupational Health, part of the Campbell County Medical Group.

Ruiz advised the public to follow common computer safeguards to defend against such virus attacks.

“There are some basic things that everyone whether it’s private industry or individuals can do … use strong passwords, don’t click on links, don’t open unknown email attachments,” she said. “Also use cyber security software, a good antivirus.”

It is unknown how the ransomware was transmitted to the CCH network. 

“It is still under investigation.” said Ruiz. “We are currently coordinating but we don’t yet know.”

Due to the ongoing criminal investigation, officials are not disclosing the nature of the ransom being demanded by the virus’ attacker. Most ransomware attacks direct the infected user to send an electronic payment through a given link before the system will be released. 

During a press conference at CCH Monday afternoon, hospital officials, affected department heads and investigators fielded questions about the attack and the investigation. 

“Our goal here is to bring in people that can help identify and go after the perpetrators,” said Leland Christensen, deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security.

Ian Swift, chair of the CCH board of directors, said work continues at the CCH despite the disruption.

“There is a sense of calm in CCH right now,” he said.

There is no estimate as to when the situation might be resolved, said Matt Sabus, information technologies director for CCH.

According to the CCH website, the county’s Emergency Medical Services, CCMH Emergency Department, Maternal Child (OB) and the CCMG Walk-in Clinic are open to assess patients and treat or transfer patients to area hospitals as appropriate.

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