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Ex-mayor Leonard dies at 67


Former Havre mayor and community icon Phyllis Leonard has died. She was 67.

Leonard served eight years as Havre's mayor, retiring in 2001. Prior to that she served five years on the City Council.

"Phyllis was not only my boss, but also a dear friend," said Mike Shortell, former police chief of Havre. "I remember when she first came on the council and then when she was elected mayor. I'd been appointed chief a few years before that, and I continued to work under her."

Shortell said Leonard was dedicated to the people of Havre.

"She was wonderful to work with and I'm really going to miss her," he said. "She was invaluable to this community. Everything she did was predicated on what's best for Havre. Anyone who knew her knows that."

Leonard was a staunch supporter of Shortell's bid for mayor, which he lost to Bob Rice in the 2001 general election.

Leonard received high praise from City Council member Tom Farnham.

"She was great to work with," he said. "She was always really cheerful and pleasant. She will be missed."

Leonard was not afraid to take a stand, even in the face of opposition, Farnham added.

"She stood out among other mayors in the state," he said. "We'd go to a meeting out of town and she'd always voice her opinion."

Havre City Council member Emily Mayer agreed. Leonard always promoted Havre during her numerous trips out of town, Mayer said.

Leonard's daughters, Gail Leonard and Kathy Anderson, could not be contacted this morning.

Leonard moved to Havre to attend Northern Montana College, where she met her future husband, Charlie, during her sophomore year. She spent 14 years as a paralegal at a local law firm, a job she quit to have her second child.

Charlie Leonard, a former conductor with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, died four years ago.

Last year Leonard received the Northstar Award from the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce. The honor is given annually to one person who has distinguished themselves through service in the Havre area. She was selected from a field of 14 applicants, including U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and Montana State University-Northern Chancellor Alex Capdeville.

Craig Erickson, former president of the Chamber, said today he was shaken by Leonard's death.

"I am deeply saddened by her passing," he said. "She was a good person."

Mayer said Leonard was a mentor and a friend.

"Phyllis took me under her wing and showed me how local government operates and was always very encouraging," Mayer said. "Phyllis was more than just a mayor and mentor to me, she was also a very, very good friend, almost like family."

Leonard also was very supportive of Havre's tourism industry and historic sites, Mayer said.

"She was the one who planted the seed in me to get the Historic Preservation Commission started," said Mayer, who is the historic preservation officer for Havre.

Mayer said one thing that should not be forgotten or ignored was Leonard's work to revitalize the downtown of Havre. If Havre is to continue to survive and grow in the 21st century, that vision must continue, she said.

"It's the vision she was brave enough to take on even though it was not always the most popular vision to take on," Mayer added.

Daily News reporter Tim Leeds contributed to this report.


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