With 2 months left, Boise’s busi­ness com­mu­nity and Ot­ter laud each other’s work

The Idaho Statesman - - Front Page - BY MICHAEL KATZ Mkatz@ida­hostates­man.com

Gov. Butch Ot­ter started his post-elec­tion farewell tour Fri­day with a friendly au­di­ence: Boise’s busi­ness com­mu­nity.

His lunch speech, hosted by the Boise Metro Cham­ber and listed in Ot­ter’s weekly sched­ule sent out to me­dia, fea­tured both Ot­ter and cham­ber mem­bers prais­ing each other for their work over the years. The gov­er­nor re­ceived two stand­ing ova­tions.

And the cham­ber has been an im­por­tant ally to the de­part­ing gov­er­nor: It helped ad­vo­cate for road-fund­ing ef­forts, the Col­lege of West­ern Idaho and for var­i­ous projects to re­build from the Great Re­ces­sion.

Ot­ter, 76, is wrap­ping up 12 years as gov­er­nor, a rare feat —

tied with Gov. Robert Smylie, and one term short of Gov. Ce­cil An­drus, Idaho’s longest­serv­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive. Ot­ter pre­vi­ously rep­re­sented Idaho’s 1st Con­gres­sional Dis­trict in Con­gress, and is the state’s long­est-serv­ing lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, hold­ing the post from 1987 to 2000.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Boise State, St. Luke’s, Mer­rill Lynch and Mi­cron at­tended his speech. Not present was Ot­ter’s wife, Lori, whom he said was bat­tling re­peated fevers from what doc­tors di­ag­nosed as adult-on­set mononu­cle­o­sis. Ot­ter asked those in at­ten­dance for their prayers.

Ot­ter donned a suit rather than his sig­na­ture blue jeans and cow­boy hat. But he was clearly re­laxed among re­cep­tive ears, and opened with a joke about a re­cent in­jury.

“I broke my an­kle get­ting my foot out of my mouth,” Ot­ter said with a chuckle. “That makes it an in­dus­trial ac­ci­dent, and I qual­ify for work­ers’ comp.”

He spent the ma­jor­ity of his 30-minute speech speak­ing about his pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships with the busi­ness com­mu­nity and the cham­ber. That started right af­ter he was first elected gov­er­nor, he said, and the cham­ber brought him a list of “the things you ought to be do­ing.”

“I will just tell you that my suc­cess, quite frankly, to a large ex­tent has been be­cause of the Boise Cham­ber,” Ot­ter said.

Among those suc­cesses, Ot­ter counted im­prove­ments to ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic growth.

He spoke of the value of teach­ers in the class­room. Ed­u­ca­tion is im­por­tant, he said, be­cause so­ci­ety needs peo­ple who can “rein­vent” them­selves and keep progress mov­ing for­ward. That only hap­pens when ed­u­ca­tion is at the fore­front, he said.

Ot­ter was gov­er­nor when the Col­lege of West­ern Idaho, the Col­lege of Eastern Idaho and the Idaho Col­lege of Os­teo­pathic Medicine were all founded. The three schools serve more than 50,000 stu­dents.

“You have to have a good ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that pro­duces peo­ple that can do that,” Ot­ter said. “We built those things be­cause of your sup­port.”

Ot­ter also de­fended his ef­forts to guide Idaho through the re­ces­sion, point­ing to the state’s re­cent pos­i­tive eco­nomic fig­ures as a sign he took the right ap­proach. Busi­ness In­sider ranked Idaho’s econ­omy No. 20 in the na­tion, high­light­ing sta­tis­tics like its un­em­ploy­ment rate and job growth. The state had an un­em­ploy­ment rate of 2.7 per­cent in Septem­ber, 1 per­cent lower than the na­tional av­er­age, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics.

“Do we have a ways to go? Yes, we do. And we’ll get there be­cause we did the right thing through the re­ces­sion,” Ot­ter said.

And, he said, he be­lieves Gov.-elect Brad Lit­tle — Ot­ter’s long­time lieu­tenant gov­er­nor and his hand­picked suc­ces­sor — will ex­tend his ap­proach once Lit­tle is sworn in in Jan­uary.

“We have a gov­ern­ment that is com­ing on that is go­ing to con­tinue ... what we started when we went into the re­ces­sion,” Ot­ter said.

Ot­ter did have one lament, say­ing he wished he could have done more to se­cure fund­ing to main­tain Idaho’s roads, high­ways and bridges and clear out a main­te­nance back­log on those struc­tures. He men­tioned it as some­thing Lit­tle needs to stay fo­cused on.

“Try to con­vince the Leg­is­la­ture that there is no dif­fer­ence be­tween that debt that we are build­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and de­ferred main­te­nance,” Ot­ter said. “It’s deficit spend­ing.”

He ended with a de­scrip­tion of how he de­cided to re­turn to state gov­ern­ment from Con­gress — con­clud­ing it was a bet­ter route to pur­sue the re­forms he sought. It is the states that make the United States great, he said, and those states need to thrive for the na­tion to thrive.

“This is a great re­pub­lic, and we need to do what we can to get it back right,” Ot­ter said. “The cre­ated can never be greater than the cre­ator ... (and) the only way the re­pub­lic can be saved is if we go home. That’s how we’ll save this great re­pub­lic.”

KATHER­INE JONES kjones@ida­hostates­man.com

Gov. Butch Ot­ter and Bill Con­nors, CEO of the Boise Metro Cham­ber, get their photo taken. Ot­ter started his farewell tour Fri­day at the cham­ber: It helped ad­vo­cate for road fund­ing, the Col­lege of West­ern Idaho and projects to re­cover from the Great Re­ces­sion.

KATHER­INE JONES kjones@ida­hostates­man.com

Bill Con­nors, right, Boise Metro Cham­ber pres­i­dent and CEO, on Fri­day presents Gov. Butch Ot­ter with a photo of the recog­ni­tion wall, which the cham­ber named in Ot­ter’s honor as a farewell gift. Ot­ter, 76, is wrap­ping up 12 years as gov­er­nor.

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