Popkey on late-Boise Mayor Eardley: Also a terrifically nice guy

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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Dick Eardley

Thanks Dan, he was an outstanding man!!! Few folks remember his sports days with the Statesman and KBOI, but from the start he was knowledgeable and nice. Two things you usually don't see with anyone who wore so many different hats in his career. He will be missed!!!

Dick and Pat Eardley

I too had the opportunity to get to know Dick and Pat Eardley while I was the attorney for Jerry Evans, former Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Pat worked in the same office just outside my door. When Dick would come by to pick up Pat after work, it was a kinder and gentler place. Always a smile and a story, they added volumes in setting a great example on how we should treat one another.

We were blessed by their lives and presence.

Daniel Chadwick
Executive Director
Idaho Association of Counties

Thanks for the insight

The late mayor was wrong about a few things...it's no surprise downtown "boomed" after he left office...but he was a good person and you capture that well.

It's sad today's "politics of personal destruction" in which winning power is the only outcome that matters has replaced the politics of discussion and compromise. Eardley might disagree with you, but could still have a conversation (or a smoke) and talk about your family.

The immaturity of 21st century American society makes political life is a sad and pathetic place. The sooner that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and their ilk go the way of Father Coughlin, the better.

In the meantime, it's nice to have Dan Popkey here to remind us that we can appreciate people from all perspectives and have civil dialogue while we disagree.