There’s something about a person who likes his job. You can tell by the way he walks, talks and interacts with people.
I am “that guy” on most days. When I’m “working,” I write a weekly column that some of the larger newspapers in the state pick up and I spend a good portion of my time talking with some personable, intelligent and influential people. To borrow from the great Lou Gehrig, I am the “luckiest man” on the face of this earth.
Or maybe Gov. Brad Little is. If he has ever had a bad day, and especially in the last couple of months, you’d never know it.
Being governor is not an easy job. Sen. Jim Risch, who had the job briefly, has said that the U.S. Senate — with all the politics and time demands there — is a piece of cake by comparison. It might be different now that he’s chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but you get the picture. A governor can make more big decisions in a morning than a lot of people do in a month. And a governor’s typical daily schedule is murderous.
But you’d never know it by seeing Little in action. A couple of weeks ago, he was an enthusiastic participant at the annual “pie day” at the Capitol, put on by Idaho home schoolers and picked out the most sinful delight that he could find — one that would make any cardiologist cringe.
“I don’t want any of this gluten-free stuff,” he said with a booming voice.
Last week, he was the featured guest at an Idaho Press Club breakfast and had about an hour-long session with reporters — who are not always so bright and cheerful at 7:30 a.m. He spent time before the news conference making lighthearted banter about salmon fishing ventures, gutting fish and whirlwind clean-up duties after meals. At the podium, he showed flashes of wit. Being governor, he said, “means more people are returning my phone calls.”
Of course, he also had plenty of “game face” for the more serious questions, addressing those with confidence and conviction. Will he allow the Idaho Legislature to leave town without doing something substantive about Medicaid expansion, which Idaho voters approved by an overwhelming vote? The answer is, “No.”
(Memo to legislators: Don’t test him on this one).
He ran through a laundry list of other issues, including education budgeting, road funding, daylight saving time and the ongoing movement to “add the words” to the Human Rights Act, which is aimed at preventing job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That issue is in the Legislature’s court.
“I have talked with the group formally and informally that are working on that, and I hope and pray that they come to some resolution,” Little said. Discrimination should not be in Idaho’s DNA.
As for daylight saving time, which had some steam in the Legislature, Little said he has no objection to Idaho being on standard time … “my cows don’t know the difference” … but only if the rest of the nation scraps daylight saving. Sudden disruptions in time changes do make a difference in the world of commerce and industry.
Granted, Little still is in the “honeymoon stage” with his young administration. It’s inevitable that there will be opposition to his agenda at some point, but for now I’m hard pressed to find serious detractors. There may have been some concerns going in that Little’s reign might be a mere extension of Butch Otter’s 12 years in office. But he has shown to be his own man, with his own style. Some legislators I talk to give him high marks for hiring smart people and overall accessibility with his staff.
None of this should come as a surprise, says Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. “He spent a lot of years preparing for this position. He’s done his homework and has put in the time, so it’s natural for him to be where he is,” she said.
As we all know, honeymoons don’t last forever. But if this feel-good atmosphere becomes the “new normal” at the Statehouse, then Idahoans should see a productive four years from this governor.
• • •
Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.