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Fred Leonhardt, veteran lobbyist and Central Florida civic leader, passes away

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Fred Leonhardt, a well-liked, longtime Republican lawyer-lobbyist and member of Florida’s GrayRobinson firm, has died. He was 65.

The cause of death is an apparent heart attack, according to a statement from GrayRobinson.

“Fred died in his home and we ask that you keep Fred and his family in your thoughts and prayers” said GrayRobinson founder, J. Charles Gray. “We will share the details of plans to celebrate Fred’s life and accomplishments as they become available.”

Leonhardt was well-known around the capital and beyond, and at last count was registered to lobby for nearly 50 clients, including the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, the Orlando Magic, Port Canaveral, CenturyLink and Volusia County.

He also represented many nonprofit groups over the years; though an infrequent tweeter, his Twitter handle was “@lobby4good.” He served on a bevy of nonprofit boards and advisory panels.

He is a past chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Floridians for Better Transportation and the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.

Leonhardt, based in Central Florida, was regularly named to Orlando Magazine‘s “50 Most Powerful People in Orlando” list.

“The community has lost a great leader and I have lost a close friend and fraternity brother,” said U.S. Rep. John Mica. “Few individuals have devoted more time to civic affairs or held more volunteer community and state leadership positions than Fred Leonhardt. We are all in shock at his passing and extend our deepest sympathy to his family.”

Added former Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon: “Fred played a major, guiding role in my career when I was just a young lawyer. He was also a positive force in Florida’s political process. He will be sorely missed.”

Leonhardt, whose last name in Old German means “strong as the lion,” listed himself as chair of GrayRobinson’s policy board on his Facebook page, where his cover photo shows him with Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

He was a board member of the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, a conservative think tank, and was on the board of Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development organization, for 12 years.

According to his firm biography, Leonhardt was a native Central Floridian, attended the University of Florida and received degrees in psychology and law. He was a Trustee Emeritus of UF’s law school.

“After college he served as counsel to the Florida House of Representatives,” the bio says. “He returned to Central Florida and has continuously been in private practice.”

Leonhardt “was a gentleman, always smiling and always offering kind words of support to his colleagues,” said Jennifer J. Green, president of Liberty Partners, a Tallahassee lobbying firm. “I am completely stunned and very sad to hear of a loss of a great leader like Fred.”

Please check back later for updates. Also, here’s a link to a “4th Floor Files” Q&A with Leonhardt from 2013. 

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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