Think of it this way: without a John V. Evans there never would have been an Interior Secretary named Cecil D. Andrus.
Why? Because Cece never would have left Idaho and given up the governor’s chair to a Republican Lieutenant Governor, especially one named Vernon Ravenscroft.
Idaho’s 27th governor passed away last week at the age of 89. Most of the media accounts dutifully noted the former Mayor and State Senator from Malad, who had defeated Ravenscroft in the 1974 general election, did a solid job in the governorship. He was twice re-elected in his own right and his ten years in the governorship is the third longest service of any Idaho governor.
Some noted that this fine record, however, has been forgotten because Evans had the misfortune of being the meat between the two fine slices of bread represented by Cece’s first stint as governor (1971-1977) and his return engagement (1987-1995).
In death though, Evans received some of his overdue “due.” Most newspapers around the state did note some of his major accomplishments, for example, during tougher economic times than Andrus experienced he maintained strong support for public education by slashing state spending elsewhere and having the courage to support some reasonable tax increase.
He also along with then Attorney General and now Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones, negotiated the precedent setting agreement with Idaho Power which established minimum stream flows on the Snake River for power generation and required the basin-wide adjudication of Snake River water rights.
Evans further marshalled all the state resources one could muster to assist the Silver Valley when it suffered the devastating loss of 2200 jobs when the Bunker Hill Mine and Smelter in Kellogg shut down. Evans was one of those rare public office holders who truly cared about people and the daily challenges most must meet.
He considerably expanded the “Capital for A Day” program which Cece had initiated in 1973.
Under the Andrus model it was just Cece and I walking Main Street of a county seat. Usually we stopped by the Main Street Drug, the busiest looking café, the local super market, a gas station or two—we’d even walk into a bar or two.
Then we’d speak to a local Kiwanis Club or Rotary at noon. In the afternoon we’d drop by the local newspaper and the local radio station to report on what we’d heard from their friends and neighbors. If it was a weekly we’d meet with the publisher. If it was a daily we’d meet with their ed board and Boise Statehouse reporter.
Evans began the practice of taking selected state agency directors and added the component of a town hall meeting to the format. It is the Evans model that current Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter adopted.
Idahoans should be grateful to Evans for his political wisdom in recognizing that in 1970 he should drop out of the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination because he would not be able to defeat Andrus. In not challenging Andrus he solidified a relationship that made it possible for Andrus to accept President-elect Carter’s offer to become Interior secretary.
And in 1974, after Evans won the Democratic nomination to be Cece’s second in command, it was easy for them to form a joint Andrus/Evans ticket and for Andrus to pour thousands of dollars of advertising into Evans’ campaign to ensure Evans’ victory.
Andrus detested State Rep. Vern Ravenscroft, from Tuttle, who Evans defeated. Why? Because Vernon had switched parties and left good folks like Joe Carter, from Corral, holding notes they never would receive repayment for. He felt Vern was ethically challenged and subsequent events proved him correct.
When Andrus launched his comeback campaign in 1985, it forced Evans to go after the Senate seat held by Steve Symms. Truth be told, Evans would much rather have been running for a thirds full term as governor, but he knew Cece stood in the way. Once again, he recognized that he could not defeat Cece and that for the good of the Democratic party, to which he was always intensely loyal, he should take on Symms.
For the only time in his career, he lost an election, largely over his tenacious opposition to Right to Work laws in Idaho.
It takes an exceptionally good man, well in tune with himself, and a realistic judge of the external political world, to put ego aside and to recognize not only what was good for himself, but also good for the best interests of Idaho. John V. Evans was just such a man. All Idahoans, and indeed the entire nation owe him a deep derb of gratitude for making it possible for Cece to be Interior Secretary.
Rest in peace, my friend.Share on Facebook