It would make Cece Andrus blush, but Chris Carlson is nothing if not loyal. The former press secretary to former Gov. Cecil Andrus says the authors of a new book messed up by not ranking Andrus first in “Idaho 100: The people Who Most Influenced the Gem State.”
Carlson said Andrus, who is listed at No. 16, should have run first "by any reasonable standard." Last year Carlson, published his memoir of his years with Andrus, "Cecil Andrus: Idaho's Greatest Governor."
Carlson is not alone in quibbling with authors Randy Stapilus and Marty Peterson. (Peterson, as it happens, worked for Andrus, and I suspect the former governor is more comfortable with the Stapilus-Peterson ranking than Carlson's. Andrus was uncomfortable with the "greatest" claim in Carlson's book.)
I continue to get nominations. My favorite so far: former Idaho Statesman political editor John Corlett, who had so much juice during his decades of influence that folks called him "Senator Corlett."
Carlson, who writes for the weekly St. Maries Gazette Record, sent me an early copy of his column this week.
Here it is:
The Carlson Chronicle
“And Here We Have Idaho. . . .”
Idaho is one of the few states in the nation where a significant number of people can sing the state's song. This is due in part to people like veteran political journalist Randy Stapilus and his co-author, Marty Peterson, the long-time director of the University of Idaho's governmental affairs. Together they have produced an entertaining book listing the 100 most influential people in the 150 years since Idaho became a territory.
The list is fascinating both because of the diversity of characters, the famous (J.R. Simplot #11, Frank Church #14, Joe Albertson #19, Ezra Taft Benson #27, William E. Borah #69) as well as a few infamous ("Big Bill" Haywood #52,Richard Butler #88), and the well-known (Robert Smylie #18, Jim McClure #23, C. Ben Ross #47)as well as the truly obscure(Wetxuwiis #10, Lafayette Cartee #25, Pinckney Lugenbeel #34). It reinforces an old notion that it is people who make and shape history, not external forces or tipping- point trends. The book should be required reading as a supplement to any Idaho history textbook.
Their main criteria for placing people on the top 100 list was a requirement that in some way those listed were to have had a transformative impact on the state. Many devotees of Idaho history are going to quibble, and rightly so, about the rankings. Indeed, the authors appear to have intentionally selected for its shock value Lloyd Adams, a lobbyist, power broker and fix-it type who served as the long-time chair of the Idaho Republican party during the first half of the 20th century as the number one most influential figure.
Most of Idaho's current political cognoscenti will ask, “Lloyd who?” That he was a venal, ethically-challenged influence peddler operating out of his law office in Rexburg and thought nothing of providing favors to friends seems not to have mattered to the authors.
Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal columnist and former speech-writer for Ronald Reagan once wrote a book about the Gipper entitled "When Character was King."
Her point was character should still be taken into account when judging those in the political ring. A secondary point is that those who enter the ring, who subject themselves to public scrutiny, place their name on the ballot and serve in the fish bowl that is modern high public office should always rank ahead of those who operate behind the scenes.
By any reasonable standard former four-term Idaho Governor and one term Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus should have been number one on the list both for his transformative impact as well as truly beneficial impact on Idaho. From obtaining funding for Idaho kindergartens, to obtaining local land-use planning laws, to senior citizen property tax relief, to creation of the Hells Canyon and Sawtooth National Recreation areas, to expansion of the Birds of Prey Natural Area as well as support for Idaho wilderness areas while Jimmy Carter's Interior secretary, Andrus will stand the test of time as the most influential person to ever trod the state's landscape. The authors should have counted the numerous references throughout the book to Andrus, who they rated as the 16th most influential (and the first governor on their list) and it would have been obvious to them who should have been designated number one.
In general, their recitation of the history of this array of fascinating people is also pretty accurate though there is an occasional lapse such as overlooking the fact that one of Idaho's truly transformative governors, C.A. "Doc" Robins (#26)in fact did try for the U.S. Senate in the last year (1950) of his incredibly productive term rather than quietly retire.
These are minor nits, however, that don't begin to take away anything from the fine achievement this book is.
The reason this reviewer gives the book 4 and 1/2 stars,
however, relates exclusively to the failure to give Andrus his due. As his press secretary for almost nine years I concede bias.
Bias aside, Stapilus and Peterson have performed a wonderful service to the many Idahoans who take pride in the great state and can sing the words to the state song---words which are reinforced substantially by this book.
"And here we have Idaho/Winning her way to fame/Silver
and gold in the sunlight blaze/And romance lies in her
name. . ."
Read it, whether an Idahoan or not. You'll be glad you did.