WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — An outpouring of condolences and support for the family of Representative Gail Finney. The long-time Kansas state representative died this weekend at 63. Some who knew her best call her a warrior, a mentor and a true champion for her constituents.
Rep. Gail Finney served District 84 since 2009. She was a small business owner and enjoyed rallying for both Wichita and state issues.
Several Wichita city council members and community activists remembered their friend on Sunday. Many said the loss hasn’t sunk in yet. Some friends said they talked to her just days ago for her birthday on August 16.
During this difficult time, people are doing what Finney would’ve wanted most–still fighting for their community.
“Gail’s legacy is so much you can see and so much you can’t,” Brandon Johnson, District 1 councilman, said.
“She represented everybody–the little guy to the big guy,” LaWanda DeShazer, a community activist, said. “Even the bill with the transmission lines, it benefits the entire state of Kansas, but it hit home in the little community where she grew up at.”
Finney got power company Evergy to commit to investing $1 million in the Black community after their controversial power line upgrades in 2019.
Johnson worked very closely with her during phase one and hopes to continue the work in honor of her life.
“The timing of her passing as phase two starts with Evergy is not lost on me,” Johnson said. “This time I have to talk to her in a different way.”
State senator Oletha Faust-Goudaeu met Finney when they were in seventh grade. She’s not only losing a colleague but a lifelong friend.
“We were the first black cheerleaders at Allison Middle School,” Faust-Goudaeu said, “and just her energy at that time–it was still like our relationship in seventh grade.”
Faust-Goudaeu said although Finney is longer here to see her legislation through her legacy will move forward as the work continues.
“Gail Finney is a champion for introducing the first medical marijuana bill in the state of Kansas,” the Kansas State senator said.
Some are confident she’ll be remembered for her strength and courage.
“She was the one waving the banner the loudest, the strongest,” DeShazer said.
“In her passing, the bar is pretty high,” Johnson said, “and we all have to live up to that and to be the type of person that she was.”
Finney had several causes she was passionate about. Those issues range from criminal justice reform to legalizing marijuana. Faust-Goudeau and Johnson both hope the legislature will pass bills in her honor during the next legislative session.