Tim Leslie looks back on 20 years serving Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Tim Leslie looks back on 20 years serving Tahoe

Kara Fox
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunAssemblyman Tim Leslie is retiring this year and moving to Sacramento.

From establishing the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to being a critic of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Assemblyman Tim Leslie has made his mark on Tahoe.

After 20 years of service in the California Legislature, Leslie will retire this year because his terms have run out in both the Senate and Assembly. He and his wife, Clydene, will leave Tahoe City next month and move permanently to their home in Sacramento.

Leslie, a self-proclaimed conservative who toes the Republican party line at every opportunity, admits he has become frustrated with politics in California.

“The legislature has changed in 20 years,” Leslie said. “The last six years in the Assembly have been difficult for me. I wasn’t really enjoying the job as much because of the partisanship. For the most part, the majority has no interest in working with the minority. To make matters worse, the Governor doesn’t work with us. The Democrats treat us quite poorly in terms of listening to our ideas and thoughts.”

Despite Leslie’s frustrations, he maintains that he is able to “work with both sides of the aisle” to pass legislation important to him.

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy that was formed in 2004 came into existence through the efforts of John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) and Leslie. The 64-year-old voted down the measure for two to three years before finally coming up with his own bill to develop a conservancy that would appeal to both parties.

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“Instead of fighting it, I thought ‘Why don’t we write the bill the way we want it,'” Leslie said. “I didn’t want the top-to-bottom approach. This conservancy has a host of things it is responsible for. They won’t spend time and efforts banking land like other conservancies.”

Other victories for Tahoe that Leslie has won during his career include getting a North Lake Tahoe sign erected on Interstate 80 near Sacramento, securing legislation that allows special districts inside the basin to keep property taxes; finding funding for Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City and securing $2 million for Commons Beach improvements.

Duane Whitelaw, fire chief for the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, said that Leslie also helped fire districts in the Tahoe Basin.

“It is my opinion that Tim Leslie has been a champion of the cause of educating people on fire danger in the basin,” Whitelaw said. “He has been instrumental in bringing in local, state and federal agencies together to create community wildfire protection plans for the Tahoe Basin, and in helping secure funding for fuels reduction in the urban interface.”

Assistant General Manager of the Tahoe City Public Utility District Cindy Gustafson noted that Leslie and his wife also participated actively in the community for the past 15 years while they have lived here.

“I think Tim is an honest man with great integrity and has represented our community in ways we will never know,” Gustafson said, noting that he helped individual residents work with TRPA and other agencies. “We couldn’t ask for a better representative.”

In the past two years, Leslie has also spoken out publicly about the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and released survey results this past spring on local attitudes about the bi-state agency. He said nothing ever came of the survey results and said it is up to the person who replaces him to carry the torch.

“I am not going to take it on any further,” Leslie stated. “There is nothing I can do now. I think I noticed that TRPA is being more open about projects. The more information out there, the better. If I had something to do with it, great.”

Now Leslie, who was the most senior member in both California’s legislative houses, said he will give more time to his position on the board of Hope Unlimited for Children, a faith-based organization that helps homeless children in Brazil.

“It is a high priority in my life to help them,” Leslie said.

He said he has also been asked to be an advisor to the president at William Jessup University, a Christian university in Rocklin.

Despite his frustrations with being in the minority party his entire career, he notes that his constituents are what helped him hang on.

“My joy comes from the district,” Leslie said. “That is how I started off and that is why I have been successful for 20 years.”