Rep. Leonard Mastroni, R-La Crosse, died Wednesday at the age of 71 following an undisclosed health issue, according to an email to House members.


The western Kansas lawmaker had represented the 117th House District since 2016. Prior to entering office he had served as a judge in the 28th Judicial District for 28 years, as well as serving as a Rush County Commissioner for six years.


House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, praised Mastroni’s service in an email to legislators, calling it "unexpected and emotional news."


"Leonard has been a steady voice for the 117th District over the past four years, always seeking to represent the best interests of his constituents and Western Kansas," Ryckman said.


Ryckman said in the email that a private funeral service is being planned. Mastroni and his wife Linda had four children.


His colleagues remembered him as a passionate advocate for his district and one who was always looking for a potential resolution, even to thorny issues.


"I think the biggest thing that I loved that Leonard brought into his legislative experience was a judicial temperament," said Rep. Bradley Ralph, R-Dodge City. "He always was looking for a resolution."


And Ralph said he had fond memories of Mastroni discussing his fishing trips with other lawmakers, as well as Sunday night dinners among the western Kansas delegation before a week of session.


"You knew you were going to get a good, pleasant conversation" with Mastroni, Ralph said.


Those sentiments were echoed by members from both parties.


"Leonard Mastroni was a standup guy. Big loss for [the legislature]," Rep. Monica Murnan, D-Pittsburg, said in a social media post.


Gov. Laura Kelly ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in Mastroni’s honor.


"I respected and admired his commitment to working with his colleagues in the Legislature to improve the lives of his constituents," Kelly said in a statement. "I offer my sincerest condolences to his wife, Linda, their four children, and all of his friends and loved ones during this difficult time. Leonard will be missed on the House floor, and throughout his district."


The 71-year-old was running unopposed for re-election in the 117th House District, which includes all of Edwards, Hodgeman, Kiowa and Ness counties and parts of Finney, Ford, Pawnee and Rush counties.


Katie Koupal, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, said in an email that Mastroni will have to remain on the ballot for the November election. If he wins, precinct committee members will have to select a replacement to be sworn in for the start of January’s session.