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Acting governor no more, Jim Risch is all action

Jim Fisher
June 1, 2006
Lewiston Morning Tribune

As of today, Jim Risch has only seven more months as Idaho's governor, but he's no lame duck.

Sworn in as chief executive seven days ago, Risch hit the ground sprinting. The morning following the Memorial Day weekend, he introduced his chief of staff -- John Sandy, a former state senator and former Republican state chairman -- and Sandy's three deputies, Brad Hoaglun, Matt Ellsworth and Barbara Strickfaden. He also announced he has done away with the policy adviser positions his predecessor, now U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, relied on.

Idahoans who have seen Risch in recent days, including people attending the May 20 Governor's Conference on Recreation and Tourism in Lewiston, can probably guess why those advisers are no longer needed. At his side, including during his initial news conference Tuesday, was his spouse. Vicki Risch has long been his closest and probably his best adviser.

The Risches also announced they would not live in the new governor's mansion, donated to the state by industrialist J.R. Simplot and in need of renovation, but would welcome constituents to it for a modest, privately financed inauguration.

The governor also promised to waste no time in announcing his replacement as lieutenant governor and other personnel changes. He previously said there would be some changes, leaving Statehouse observers wondering how much different the Risch administration would be from that of Kempthorne.

Based on his record as an energetic and skillful legislator, here's a prediction:

Despite his severely limited term, Risch will be the kind of governor Idahoans saw in Republican Bob Smylie and Democrat Cecil Andrus. Not content to sit in the big chair hearing himself called "Governor," he will want to get his hands on the levers of power, and leave as many accomplishments as he can.

The ones he already has listed -- recommending management of roadless areas to the Bush administration, administering Kempthorne's highway bonding program and supervising Medicare revisions and state park improvements -- were waiting for him on taking office. But he also plans to emphasize constituent service and mentions "some other things I want to see done."

Will those things be good or bad? No predictions from this corner on that. But his succession to chief executive will surely convert the next seven months from the fading days of one administration to the muscular moments of another.

Originally posted at

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