I'd like to add a few words about Dick Eardley to complement
today's story about the death of Boise's longest-serving Mayor.
I started covering City Hall the moment Eardley left office in January 1986, when Dirk Kempthorne became mayor, so I never followed him as a beat reporter.
Still, as a police reporter, I'd interviewed Eardley a time or two before he left office. Later, I relied on him as a source well-grounded in local issues, including growth. He was a source in our 1997 three-part series, "Boom to Bust and Beyond," which gave me the the pleasure of meeting his wife, Pat, at their home in Meridian.
As a former newsman, Eardley was generous with his time and insight. He was a complex, driven man who had both a short temper and the quickest of smiles. Sometimes his having worked as a reporter seemed to light his fuse, and he'd growl at reporters asking uninformed questions.
Roger Simmons, another newsman-turned-politician, told me Monday about a press conference during the fight over whether to build a mall downtown. Eardley, who trusted Simmons, approached him afterward. "Dick came over and said, 'I hope you never go into politics and have to deal with this.' The irony was that I did. And he was right that it was different on the other side of the camera."
Sal Celeski, former news director at KTVB-Channel 7, worked opposite of Eardley, who held the same job at KBOI-Channel 2. "He was a very, very good competitor," Celeski said. "He was a very good writer, that was his long suit."
Celeski tells a great story about Eardley making the transition from reporter to mayor. For eight years, Eardley had covered his predecessor, Mayor Jay Amyx, and come to think dismissively of Amyx's weekly news conferences.
"Amyx had his news conference every week, whether there was news or not," Celeski said. "Eardley vowed that he'd only have a news conference when something was going on."
After two years in office, Eardley was at a tire shop he'd visited frequently when he was at Channel 2. A longtime employee was pleased to see his old customer and said, "I haven't seen you around. What have you been doing?"
"I'm the mayor," Eardley replied.
Soon, Celeski noticed that Eardley had bumped up the frequency of his news conferences. Celeski asked what was up and Eardley told him the story about being forgotten. "I decided maybe I'd better have a few more news conference," Eardley added.
Eardley's warmth lasted to his final days. I was lucky enough to be included among the dozen golfers that joined Eardley and former Gov. Phil Batt at Plantation Country Club on May 30. Eardley was his jocular self, lifting his hat to show off several scabs on his bald head, the result of some preventive skin repair. He greeted me warmly and said something kind about my work at the paper, while sympathizing with the ongoing change in the news business.
Since his death on Saturday, Eardley's family has heard a lot of nice stories, said one of his three sons, Randy.
"People say, 'This guy was just a sweetheart of a guy and accomplished a great deal,'" Randy Eardley said. "He was never anything but humble and he always treated people with respect."
Eardley described visiting his dad at work, painting a picture of a man who could work the phone, smoke a cigarette, bang out a script and parent his three boys all at once.
"He played a typewriter like Liberace played a piano," Randy Eardley said. "He was just a terrific dad. And he really cared about people."
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