Two of Idaho’s finest non-elected public servants, Darrell V. Manning and Marty Peterson, retire soon with a combined 100 years of service to the state between them. Their nature is to slip quietly into retirement, but Idaho owes them a hearty “job well done.”
Their service exemplifies the best and brightest rising to the top in the Gem State. Their works provide them with the satisfaction of knowing they helped improve the lives of many who will never know how much they owe these fine public servants.
Every governor from Cecil Andrus to Butch Otter would heartily agree.
Manning is retiring as chair of the Idaho Transportation Board, but his resume reflects how indispensable governors have found him to be. It includes director of Idaho’s Aeronautics department, the first director of the reorganized Department of Transportation, adjutant and commanding general of the Idaho National Guard, chief of the Bureau of Disaster Services, administrator of the division of Financial Management, executive director of the Idaho Board of Education as well as a member of that board and a regent for the University of Idaho, acting director of Health and Welfare, and special assistant to several governors.
Peterson is retiring after 20 years as the special assistant to the president of the University of Idaho in charge of coordinating the university’s government affairs programs That he served seven different presidents over those years speaks to his ability to earn respect and achieve results for the state’s land grant university.
Peterson’s career includes serving on Senator Frank Church’s staff, as the executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities, and stints as budget director for both Andrus and Governor John V. Evans. Andrus also tapped Peterson to be the planning and administrative director of Idaho’s highly successful Centennial Observance in 1990.
An avid Idaho history buff, Peterson maintains a summer home in historic Silver City, is a sought after speaker on Ernest Hemingway, serves on several boards including the Idaho Humanities Council, and like Manning, though a “business Democrat,” has adroitly served governors of both political parties.
Both cut their teeth on politics early: Manning, a graduate of Utah State, came right out of the Air Force in 1960 ran, and won a seat in Idaho’s House of Representatives from Bannock County at the age of 28. He became friends with a newly elected State Senator from Clearwater County, 29-year-old Cecil Andrus. After four terms in the House, Manning joined Andrus in the State Senate in 1968.
Besides working on Senator Church’s staff, Peterson, a native of Lewiston and a graduate of the University of Idaho, was a “loaned” campaign worker to the 1970 Andrus gubernatorial campaign.
Both Manning and Peterson have a reputation for probity. Both at one time ran the Division of Financial Management. Both have charming wives.
Few will recall though how close both came to meeting their Maker early in their careers.
In April of 1973, Darrell and Rochelle, Marty and Barbara, and Dr. Sam Taylor, from Nampa along with his wife, Jean, who was Governor Andrus’ appointment secretary, undertook the 36 mile backpacking trip through Hells Canyon from Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon Dam downstream to Pittsburg Landing where they would be picked up by a jet boat and taken the 76 remaining miles back to Lewiston.
Picking them up would be Eddie Williams, a former state legislator from Lewiston who was then Andrus’ chief of staff, along with Ed’s good friend, Jack Bowman.
Disaster struck in the Imnaha Rapids, the boat swamping with all eight being tossed into the incredibly cold waters of the high flowing Snake River. Swollen by the spring run-off, the river was fast, full of whirlpools and even with life jackets on, one could still be swept under the surface.
Years later Manning would recall the anxiety he and Rochelle experienced being swept under several times, caught in whirlpools they could not seem to get out of, and helplessly floating seven miles downstream to the river’s confluence with the Salmon before making land and safety.
As they were swept along Manning did note how the Taylor’s and Peterson’s managed to get out and upon several rocks at various spots in the middle of the stream. With night coming on hypothermia was an immediate concern but fortunately another boat came along able to pick up the survivors.
Unfortunately, neither Eddie nor Jack had life jackets and were last seen clinging to seat cushions as they too were swept away. Bowman’s body was recovered a few days later but the river never yielded Ed’s. Andrus, devastated by the tragedy, personally searched the river by helicopter.
Manning and Peterson still acknowledge how fortunate they were to survive. The state of Idaho has been the true beneficiary of their survival. Join me, please, in saying to them both “thank you for jobs well done.”
CHRIS CARLSON is a former journalist who served as press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andurs. He lives at Medimont.