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State Rep. Eric Leutheuser sits at his desk in Michi­gan’s Capitol building. Courtesy | Office of Eric Leutheuser

As a staple of Hillsdale pol­itics gears up to leave office, he leaves behind a lasting legacy of service to the Hillsdale com­munity. 

Eric Leutheuser, a Hillsdale College class of ’82 graduate, will finish his final term as state rep­re­sen­tative at the end of the year. Leutheuser has spent nearly six years in the office of the Michigan House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ 58th Dis­trict, which includes Hillsdale and Branch counties.

As a third-term state rep­re­sen­tative, Leutheuser has reached the term limit for serving in the state house.

While his post-term plans are uncertain, he plans to stay involved in pol­itics.

“I got in my first time just because I was open to service, and so I’m going to con­tinue to be open to it and be pre­pared for it,” Leutheuser said. “I will def­i­nitely stay inter­ested in pol­itics.”

Leutheuser said he will remember his time as a rep­re­sen­tative fondly, largely because of how much he has enjoyed serving the people around the Hillsdale area.

“Whoever rep­re­sents this area is going to be lucky because it’s a great dis­trict. I was lucky to rep­resent it,” he said.

Leutheuser is a lifelong res­ident of Hillsdale. He has been involved in his com­munity as an officer of the Hillsdale County Com­munity Foun­dation, the Hillsdale City Planning Com­mission, the Eco­nomic Devel­opment Com­mission, and the Rotary Club of Hillsdale.

Before winning the election to his first term back in 2014, Leutheuser owned a Buick GMC deal­ership in Hillsdale. Like many other freshmen state rep­re­sen­ta­tives, this was the first time he had ever held any sort of political office.

“I was inter­ested in pol­itics growing up,” Leutheuser said. “But I didn’t see a career in it. My degree was in political economy, but I didn’t see how to make a career out of it.”

Then, a seat opened up in the 58th dis­trict. Because of term limits, Leutheuser explained, many dis­tricts have wide-open primary races every six years. When this hap­pened in his own dis­trict in 2014, the time seemed right for him to serve.

The 2014 Repub­lican primary was a com­pet­itive one, Leutheuser said.

“It was a 7‑way primary, and pri­maries are not fun for anybody,” he said. “You’re com­peting with your friends, with people you by and large agree with. But they’re part of the process, and they become the main contest in a seat like ours which is pre­dom­i­nately Repub­lican.”

Leutheuser ended up winning the 2014 Repub­lican primary with 34.5% of the total votes. He has handily won every election he has run in since then, even winning his last election in 2018 by a 42.2% margin. This was the greatest margin of victory for any Repub­lican state­house can­didate in Michigan that year.

Throughout his tenure as a rep­re­sen­tative, Leutheuser won several key leg­islative vic­tories he is proud of. He counted his first policy work back in 2015 among these achieve­ments.

He picked up work from his pre­de­cessor on a bill that helped provide pro­tec­tions for faith-based adoption agencies, many of which he said were being lit­i­gated out of exis­tence by overzealous liberal attorney gen­erals. The policy Leutheuser helped pass ensured faith-based adoption agencies could not be forced to com­promise their reli­gious beliefs.

Leutheuser said he con­siders this policy work all the more prevalent now fol­lowing the election or Michigan’s current attorney general, Dana Nessel.

Another key leg­islative victory that Leutheuser worked on in antic­i­pation of a hostile attorney general was a bill granting the leg­is­lature standing to sue on its own behalf. The leg­is­lature passed this bill last term, and without it, its current lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would not be pos­sible.

Among these leg­islative vic­tories, the one that Leutheuser said he con­siders his biggest is reforming Michigan’s com­pli­cated auto insurance require­ments.  He believed it was the issue his con­stituents from the 58th dis­trict were most con­cerned about. He ran on the issue in 2014, pledging to make it a top pri­ority if elected. 

In May 2019, Leutheuser was able to follow through on his promise to his con­stituents, helping pass no-fault auto insurance reform leg­is­lation. While many of his leg­islative vic­tories could be very fleeting, Leutheuser said, the auto insurance law has a lot of staying power because of its fiscal con­se­quences.

Leutheuser attributed much of the success in his office to how Hillsdale College pre­pared him to practice pol­itics.

“Just being aware of the foun­da­tional prin­ciples that we teach helps you sift out whether some­thing is on good footing or not,” Leutheuser said.

Because of his esteem for his alma mater, Leutheuser said he hopes that Hillsdale grad­uates con­tinue to hold his office in the near future.

“There should be some Hillsdale stu­dents that are always in the pipeline,” he said.

Leutheuser expressed his enthu­siasm about Andrew Fink ’06 recently winning the Repub­lican primary for his house seat. Fink echoed Leutheuser’s sen­ti­ments regarding the value of his Hillsdale edu­cation in preparing him for political office.

“The liberal arts edu­cation is an edu­cation in human nature,” Fink said. “In a republic, when you’re dealing with cit­izens, each of whom is entitled to dignity and respect, under­standing what people are like and what is important to people in your area is what the entire job is about.”

Fink also brought up several of Leutheuser’s qual­ities he said made him such an effective rep­re­sen­tative for the area, stressing, in par­ticular, the concern he showed for his con­stituents. Fink said he hopes to emulate this if he wins the election in November.

“I think Eric sets a really good example for upholding the decorum of public office, acting respon­sibly and pro­fes­sionally at all times and showing a lot of respect to his con­stituents,” Fink said. “He treats them as equal cit­izens, not assuming he knows more about every­thing than they do, wanting their input — he does a great job with that.”

Ben Kauffman ’14 is a former leg­islative aide for Leutheuser, also said he admired how Leutheuser approached his position. Kauffman worked as Leutheuser’s policy director since 2017 before moving to Senator Mike Shirkey’s office in Feb­ruary of this year. Kauffman praised his former boss for how he treated others.

“He is truly a man of integrity,” Kauffman said. “He is the same person at a coffee hour that you meet back in the office. He’s just an authentic person.”

Kauffman also men­tioned how Leutheuser’s concern for people extended to his staff. He said Leutheuser always con­sidered how he could help the people he hired and set them up for long-term success.

“He cared for his staff,” Kauffman said. “He cared to see that they were getting leg­islative expe­rience, that they were growing as staffers and young pro­fes­sionals.”

Leutheuser also earned the praise of many of his col­leagues, including Repub­lican Rep. Aaron Miller of Michigan’s 59th Dis­trict. Like Leutheuser, Miller was also elected to his first term in 2014 and has worked in the office right next to Leutheuser in the Anderson House Office Building in Lansing for all six years of his leg­islative career.

“I have an immense amount of respect for Rep. Leutheuser,” Miller said. “I think he’s a very mea­sured, wise, well-spoken man with very high char­acter. That trans­lates into being a good public servant, and he has been that for the last six years.”

Miller said he and Leutheuser have always been good neighbors. They have gotten to know each other’s staff very well, worked on many issues together, and even hosted birthday parties with each other.

“We came in together, we’ve got a lot of history together, and we’ve seen a lot of leg­islative battles together,” Miller said. “Even when we didn’t see eye-to-eye, our rela­tionship never took a hit over it. We never let that damage our rela­tionship.”

As the chairman of the Michigan House Repub­lican caucus, Leutheuser has been what Miller described as a kind of father figure and leader for the Repub­lican state rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Michigan. Miller said they will miss Leutheuser’s lead­ership and char­acter in the state­house, but also said he was glad to have been a witness to it the past six years.

“He will def­i­nitely be missed,” Miller said. “Having been his co-worker, I can say that his rep­re­sen­tation will be missed in Lansing. He will leave big shoes to fill.”