For much of her career, Lynn Hightower was a familiar face to Treasure Valley residents. They saw her reporting for KIVI-TV (Channel 6) from 1990 into the 2000s, and later, answering questions for reporters as spokeswoman for the Boise Police Department in the 2000s and 2010s.
Nearly three years ago, Hightower took a job with a much lower profile: executive director for the Downtown Boise Association.
The nonprofit corporation manages the Boise Business Improvement District for the city. It promotes Downtown as the city’s premier business center and a place for shopping, entertainment and recreation. It is funded through events, sponsorships and assessments on businesses located in the district, bordered by Fifth, 13th, State and Myrtle streets.
She says her storytelling background has helped her explain to Idahoans why the economic vitality of Downtown benefits all Idahoans, not just those in Boise and the Treasure Valley.
Q: You started your career as a television reporter, working in Helena, Montana. What did you learn there?
A: That there were more students at San Diego State than in Helena. (Hightower graduated in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Diego State University.) But it was a great town, and I learned a tremendous amount. There was one day when somebody was on vacation and somebody called in sick. There were two of us in the newsroom, and we still had to put on an hour’s worth of news that day.
And we didn’t have photographers. We were one-man bands in that little, teeny market. So I literally had to gather the news, produce the news and anchor the news because that other person was a sports person. And if my machine quit working, I had to know how to fix it.
What I learned in that was don’t tell me it can’t be done, because I have done it all. And you can make it happen if you know how to do it.
Q: How did you end up in Boise?
A: I worked at another station, in Missoula, and later worked as an assistant press secretary for the governor of Montana. But I realized I missed the energy that came in a newsroom. I literally called up a guy who owned TV stations in South Carolina and asked him if he had any jobs anywhere. He said he had openings in Lexington, Kentucky, and Boise (KIVI-TV). Almost sight unseen, they hired me in Boise. That was 1990. I’ve counted my blessings ever since. This was a great place to be, and I realized that pretty quickly.
I started out at Channel 6 as a weekend anchor. During my time there, I worked every single newscast: weekend, weekday, night, morning. I produced, anchored, reported. I did weather. And I was the news director, so I was the news manager for two years. That was a leap. I thought, wow, who am I to take on all this responsibility? And to manage people who had been my co-workers? It was a challenge, but I learned a ton.
Q: What was next for you?
A: I went to the Boise Police Department and was their public information officer for 12-plus years. Honestly I loved that job and never thought I would leave that job. I loved the people that I worked with. I loved the city. I loved the message there. If you looked at what you had to deal with in law enforcement, it wasn’t always pleasant. Sometimes, you had some very difficult, difficult things. But I always felt I was doing a great public service. I felt like on our best day, I was trying to help people value public safety, understand why public safety is important, why it matters to them, what they can do about it.
Q: What did you think when you heard the executive director’s position at the Downtown Boise Association came open in late 2015?
A: At first, I thought, wow, that’s different. The more I thought about it and the more I learned about the job, I felt it was a lot of what I’ve already done, but certainly packaged differently.
This job is, very much, administrative. What was lacking here and part of what I could bring to the job was part of that storytelling, which is what I love to do. Why is what is happening in Downtown Boise matter to people across the state of Idaho? Because it does matter.
The economic activity that occurs in Downtown Boise is really the driver and the catalyst for economic growth and development certainly throughout this valley and, to some degree, it touches the entire state. And that’s an important message, not just to boost Downtown Boise.
Why does a healthy economy in the largest urban center in the state matter to people in Rupert and Kuna? Because it does. It enables their lifestyle to some degree. That’s Economics 101. You have to have economic growth centers. I saw that as being a story that perhaps people need to understand a little bit more.
As always, I’m not going to tell you how to think, but I can give you information that may educate you a bit more, make you more aware of something you weren’t aware of yesterday.