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Carlson: On Andrus and I

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

For readers who have been entertained or, hopefully, intellectually stimulated by my musings for more than a year, I have some news: Idaho’s oldest publishing house, Caxton Press of Caldwell, will be publishing a book by me.

Entitled “Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor,” the book recounts an insider’s view of events that happened in the 10 years I worked for the “good, great former governor.” Elected to four terms covering 14 years with a 10-year break between the first six years and the second eight years, Andrus is without question the longest serving, most influential political practitioner to ever hold Idaho’s reins.

He is the standard against which all previous and subsequent governors will be measured. His total tenure will never be exceeded, nor will his margin of victory in the 1974 election (73 percent) ever be topped. He is considered by many to be one of the five best persons to ever serve as Secretary of the Interior.

The book describes the governor’s early years on the family farm outside Hood River, Oregon, where he was born on August 25, 1931. It also describes his teenage years, early marriage (he was 18), and service in the Navy on board a P2V Neptune patrol bomber and intel gathering aircraft during the Korean War. Few know, for example, he survived a potentially disastrous air crash.

His years as a gypo logger in northern Idaho and his election in 1960 to the Idaho State Senate from Clearwater County at the age of 29 (then the youngest person elected to the Legislature) and his years serving in the Senate also are recounted. Little has been written about these formative years and experiences.

Throughout the book I recount anecdotes from our years working together when he was governor and then Interior secretary, as well as during our business relationship at the Gallatin Group in his post-political office years. I try to help the reader understand how such an extraordinary politician emerged from such ordinary circumstances.

When a reader is finished with this book, I can only hope those that know him will say “Yup, that’s Cece.” Those that don’t at least will feel they have met and gotten better acquainted with him. Even 16 years after leaving office, according to almost all polls, Andrus remains the most popular and best known hunter/ fisherman in the state. Many believe he could easily win the governor’s chair again.

During the course of writing I had two fine editors who helped improve the manuscript. The “dean” was James E. “Jay” Shelledy, former editor of The Salt Lake Tribune and before that publisher of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Some readers may even recall Shelledy was a teacher and a coach at Kootenai High School from 1967 to 1971.

Another editor was my former business partner and friend, Marc Johnson, the Boise office managing partner at The Gallatin Group, the public affairs firm I founded in 1989. Marc edited for historical accuracy as well as style, spelling and punctuation.

Shelledy and I were not in sync on one issue. He correctly points out there is scarcely a critical word in these pages. He suggested readers will award more credibility to my observations if I detail Andrus’ few warts. While he, too, believes Andrus was a great governor, he insists that he also was human, that my credibility as an observer would be enhanced n along with the governor’s reputation, — by portraying him more plausibly as a mortal, meaning occasionally flawed.

Andrus would be the first to say he was not perfect. He saw politics as hardball and could throw a high, hard inside pitch when necessary. Shelledy has his point, but this is not an objective biography or history book. It is my recollections, anecdotes and stories as I saw them, as one who wishes to help others come to know Andrus and understand what makes him exceptional.

To me the point is he was an intelligent, compassionate, far-seeing, disciplined, crafty, competitive politician and individual, one with incredible leadership and mentoring skills. Overall, his behavior and conduct was honorable, responsible and ethical. He was proud to serve the people of Idaho and grateful for the opportunity.

He would have died before letting the people of Idaho down or betraying the love and trust of family and friends. When I told him about the book he responded “Who do you think is going to read it, Chris? There’s no sex, fraud, cheating or stealing to reveal. There’s little that was controversial, especially in the light of the passage of time.”

My response was and is that it is precisely the rarity of people like him in high office that captured and continues to fascinate people about Cecil D. Andrus.

I hope you will find the book well worth your time, interest and the modest investment of $18. It can be pre-ordered through Caxton’s store at There will be a book signing at The Paperhouse sometime in the fall.

A native of Kellogg, a former teacher at Kootenai, and a former journalist, Chris served as press secretary to former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus for ten years. He is the founding partner of the Gallatin Group, is now retired and he and his wife, Marcia, reside at Medimont.

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