He graduated from Fort Vancouver High School, then attended Clark College and Washington State University, where he received a masters degree in environmental engineering and was a member of Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity.
He was first elected mayor in 2009 when he defeated 14-year incumbent Royce Pollard
From 1998 throughout his political career, Leavitt has worked for civil and environmental engineering firm Public Broadcasting Service Engineering + Environmental. He has never been married and has no children. In January 2003 Leavitt was appointed to the Vancouver City Council to fill a vacancy and was elected to the seat in November of that year, 2003.
While on the Council, Leavitt also served on the board of directors of C-TRAN, including acting as its chair for several years.
In January, 2010 he succeeded 14-year mayor Royce Pollard after winning the 2009 election by nine percentage points. Most attribute the upset of Pollard"s decade-plus dominance of the city"s mayoral politics to an election divided over whether tolling will be used to pay for replacement of the Interstate Bridge, with Leavitt opposing tolls for Vancouver residents.
Shortly after he was elected, Leavitt revealed that the battle against tolls "is not winnable," and changed his stance. Leavitt was sworn in on January 4, 2010.
In late 2011, there was some speculation that Leavitt would run against Jaime Herrera Beutler for a seat in the House of Representatives representing the 3rd congressional district in the 2012.
The speculation came out in August 2011 when he Tweeted "Leavitt for Congress?" However, in November, he released a statement saying, "After much conversation, advice/feedback and deliberation, I"ve decided now is not the right time for me, for our city council and for our community to pursue the Washington 3rd Congressional District seat," however speculation continued that he might run in 2014. Herrera Beutler ended up winning reelection with 60% of the vote. In 2013, Leavitt ran for reelection, opposed by City Councilor Bill Turlay.
While Leavitt was endorsed by The Columbian and unions representing city employees, local firefighters, and others, Turlay was endorsed by the Clark County Republican Party.
In the November election, Leavitt beat Turlay, 53% to 47%.