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Jeff Groscost

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Former Arizona House Speaker Jeff Groscost died suddenly Friday afternoon of a heart attack at his Mesa home.

Mesa police receieved a 9-1-1 call to Groscost's home around 11:43 a.m. about an unresponsive male, Mesa police Sgt. Chuck Trapani said. After Mesa Fire Department paramedics attempted life-saving techniques, Groscost was taken to Banner Baywood Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, Trapani said.

News of the sudden death raced through political circles Friday, as people reacted in shock to his untimely death at age 45.

"I saw him less than a week ago at an East Valley political rally," said a shocked Matt Salmon, chairman of the state Republican Party. "He was the master of ceremonies."

Groscost was in fine form as he oversaw the political event, Salmon said.

Groscost had undergone gall-bladder surgery in October at Banner Baywood, Salmon said, but he was unclear if there was any connection between the surgery and the heart attack.

Groscost most recently served as president of AFV Solutions, Inc., which provided alternative-fuel vehicles and services, mostly to private fleet. But he made his name as the architect of Arizona's alternative-fuels policy, which ended in scandal in 2000.

He steadily worked on policies to encourage the use of alternative fuels, primarily compressed natural gas and propane, in the state. The program grew from a mandate for government fleets to subsidies to entice the private market.

When those subsidies amounted to nearly half the sticker price of a vehicle, no matter its make or model, the program collapsed as it threatened to sink the state budget.

Policies pushed by then-Gov. Jane Hull and then Attorney General Janet Napolitano curtailed the program, and the state's tab ultimately amounted to $140 million.

The scandal led to Groscost's defeat in November 2000, when he sought a Senate seat.

This spring, he authored an op-ed piece in which he apologized for the toll the program took on the state.

Groscost continued to work on alternative-fuel issues, pushing them as necessary to reduce the United States' dependence on foreign oil.

Longtime friend and former lawmaker Stan Barnes said Groscost should not be defined by the alt-fuels scandal.

He called Groscost a "bigger than life political figure."

"Jeff was liked by all, respected by his political enemies and a master of the process of making laws and policy in the House of Representatives," said Barnes, who is now a political consultant.

Former Gov. Hull agreed that Groscost was about far more than the alt-fuels scandal. But the Republican, who shouldered much of the alt-fuels fallout, said it's fair to assume the scandal tainted the former speaker's legacy.

"Probably Jeff did not realize the consequences of it," Hull said. "I've always wondered if Jeff realized what he created. "I would hope people remember the good things about Jeff Groscost."

The "good things" are many, said longtime friend and colleague Rep. Eddie Farnsworth.

Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, called Groscost "an exceptionally good lawmaker and policy maker." Outside the Capitol, though, it's just as likely Groscost will be remembered as a family man.

"He was a giving man," Farnsworth said. "He loved people and he loved life."

Kevin DeMenna, a longtime Capitol lobbyist, was left shellshocked by the news, as were others.

“The man knew how to bring people together,” DeMenna said.

Current House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, joined those lamenting Groscost's death.

“I served with Jeff in the Legislature and got to know him and his family,” Weiers said in a statement. “Jeff was a wonderful and loving father and husband and he cared deeply for Arizona."

Theunder a as it Subsidies approved by the Legislature and Groscost became president of AFV Solutions, Inc. an alt-fuels company, in summer 2005. The company focuses mainly on contracts with private vehicle fleets, such as taxis, and foreign governments.

Groscost is survived by his wife Dana and six children.
Published in The Arizona Republic on Nov. 3, 2006
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