Q&A: State Rep Jeff Leach

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Q&A: State Rep Jeff Leach

Caroline Tucker, Feature Editor

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What inspired you to become a state rep?

Looking back at my life, I’ve always felt a pull to public service, government, politics in this area. My life experiences have led me here. I worked in the White House in 2004. The Lord called me at a very young age to this. I’ve always felt a stirring in my heart to be in public service. So Becky, my wife, and I decided, we were about five years into our marriage with about two kids, when we decided to run for this office. And we won. I got elected, got selected to be on these committees and have been serving ever since. The cool thing about what I’m doing here is that I am one of the only state representatives in the entire state that represents their hometown, the town in which they were born and raised. I was born in Plano, raised in Plano, graduated high school from Plano Senior High. I love that I am one of the only ones that is actively representing the place where they come from. This is home.

What made you want to transition from the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and the House Committee to Government Transparency and Operations?

I’m still in my third session, and in the beginning of every legislation, we fill out a card with our community preferences, and the Speaker of the House makes all the appointments. You tell him what you want, but he can put you where you want or where he wants. My first session, he put me on the Committee of Criminal Jurisprudence and on the Urban Affairs committee. My second session, I was still on the Criminal Jurisprudence and on the House Government Transparency and Operations committee. My third session, my current position, I am the vice chairman of Urban Affairs and the committee of Economic and Small Business Development committee.

With your family at home, how do you manage time between work and family time?

That’s the hardest part of the job. The political side of the job, the nasty politics, that can be difficult.  I have developed a pretty thick skin over the years. The hardest part of my job is being away from my family; I have to go to Austin  a lot. When we’re in session, I’m always in Austin, and I can only come home on the weekends. I’m away from my kids and Becky, so that’s the hardest part. The second hardest part is the time management. We have a very important job and a role to serve and vote in Austin and fulfill the policy part, but here in the district just meeting with constituents, neighbors, being available to do my job and do it well is very demanding and high maintenance at times. But I have a great staff ; an awesome staff that helps me do my job effectively, scheduling and managing time so it just works. You make it work.  The cool thing about it though is everything is different every week. For example, last week, we helped several families with CPS cases, Medicaid, a ton of everyday people call and say they need help with certain situations. This past month, I was able to work in Allen on this big power project that is coming through this town. Every week is different and I love that. It keeps me going.

Out of all the things you’re involved in, advisory board of Meals on Wheels, working for Gray Reed and McGraw law firm, which line of work do you find most joy in? Why?

That’s hard to pick because if I didn’t enjoy them, I wouldn’t be in them. Our job is a state representative, we don’t get paid.  We get a very small salary, but after taxes, there is almost nothing. So to pay the bills, I’m a lawyer. I serve with people in the legislator, back doctors and surgeons. For example, a man who sits next to me in the Texas House is a brain surgeon. He will literally fly home then perform brain surgery in the morning and then fly back to Austin, and he will be voting on the floor in the House at 10 a.m. So, I’m a lawyer,  I went to law school, I represent people and businesses and I love doing that. But my best job is being the dad to my three kids. Your question is what I enjoy most, but I would give up any of what I do to continue to be a dad to Brady, Charlotte, Landry and Becky’s husband. That’s what keeps me going. I serve here at home to prepare my kids for the world, and I serve in the Texas house to prepare the world for them.

During your three terms in office, what do you feel is the most important thing you have learned?

The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned is how blessed we are to live in the state of Texas.  We are blessed with a strong economy, with great natural resources, awesome people. Other states are really struggling. If you look at our county, we have a lot of people moving here from other states, and they are moving here by the thousands. There’s a reason that they are leaving their states to come here because we are so blessed here. It is not by accident that this is happening.  We have limited government, we’re free, we have low taxes and faith and family are important factors in the state. I knew that when I was running for State Rep. We were blessed, but I really seen and experienced it with this job.

Could you describe to me the qualities needed in order to be a successful state rep?

I think the thing I focus on most in order to be a successful state representative is service. I want to be a servant leader. My job is to serve you, to serve your family,  to serve 180,000 other people in house district 87. [Approximately] 180,000 people are depending on me to advocate for them, to roll up my sleeves and work for them. It doesn’t mean we agree on every issue,  but they know that I’m going to listen to them, I’m going to work hard for them, that I want to serve them. For me, the most important quality is to listen. Scripture tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and I take it that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Politicians generally love to talk, politicians love to speak what we believe in,  and it is important for you to know what we believe. I will happily to talk about what I believe in, but more importantly than that, one of the most important parts of my job is to sit down and to listen. To listen to families, business owners, school leaders, teachers, everyday Texans; to listen to them and for them to tell me what they think, what is important to them and what I can do for them.  Leaders that do not listen will never be effective, and I have learned that over the years.

What impact do you hope to leave on your county at the end of your terms?

I want my kids and the younger generations to, two things, number one, grow up and have the same opportunities that I had when I was brought up here in the state.  I wouldn’t be where I am today, married to who I’m married to, raising the kids I’m raising, going to church, living in this community. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for this community, for the people here, my family, I just want you guys to have the same opportunities that I had, and number two, I want to help raise up the next generation of leaders for our state.  I’m considerably young compared to the other guys I work with in the state. For example, I’m working with some guys who are already in their 80s. I am one of the younger state representatives, and I think I’m around the 10th youngest. I view my role as kind of a link between the old generations of Texas to the future generations of Texas leaders are coming behind us. I want to protect your freedoms,  I want you to have the same opportunities to education, to have a job, to raise a family, to go to church. I want to make an impact on your generation.

Out of all your terms, what is the thing you are most proud of out of your accomplishments?

We have accomplished a lot over the past few years, but there was this case called The Jeff Wood case,  and I was able to save a guy from the death penalty in Texas. His name is Jeff Wood, and we execute people in the state for the most heinous crimes,  in fact in 2018, we had already executed three people. I am pro-death penalty for those who have committed the most heinous crimes. But, in my role as a legislator, I have learned that there are faults in the system. There are faults in our justice system. Big ones. I have learned that there are people on death row that do not deserve to be there. Jeff Wood is one of those.  End 2016, we were able to put together a coalition of state representatives for the governor’s office and stop his execution. He is still on death row, but we are working on getting him off. That was my proudest accomplishment. I am pro-life, I say from the womb to the tomb. I believe very strongly that God creates life and that we as policymakers should protect life at all costs.

What is the image you hope to portray to high school students? How do you accomplish this?

What I would like for you and student at Allen High School to know is that your focus right now,  if you are anything like me like how I was in high school, your mindset is on good grades, graduating, going to college and keeping the parents happy.  I encourage you guys to think broader and bigger than that. For your generation, It is important to stand strong and what you believe in, to be leaders.  your job as a leader, starts now, it doesn’t start when you graduate from college. I challenge high school students to find their passion and pursue it, to be leaders now because before you know it, you or one of your friends or someone else your age, will be running for this state representative job.  It seems like it was just yesterday where I was sitting where you are sitting at this moment. I would encourage you guys to figure out what you can do now to be leaders. What I can do to help that is to just be available, to keep doing what I’m doing, helping whenever I can.

Who inspires you to be the best politician you can be?

Becky. No doubt. She is the best person I know. She is the smartest person I know, the wisest, and she’s not very political and I am very political, so it makes for some interesting dinner conversations. But she is the most remarkable person I know in terms of focusing on what’s important and keeping me grounded. After a long day at the Capitol, when I come home from work and see my three kids and Becky, it brings everything back to where it needs to be for me. She is my role model, there is no doubt about it. She encourages me to do better, through and through, every day.

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