Brad Little, the policy-minded former lieutenant governor known for his fiscal conservatism and ranching background, used his inaugural speech to reiterate his commitment to building on the legacy of his predecessors as Idaho’s 33rd governor.
“They are why Idaho is a leader in fiscal responsibility and the preferred home for Idahoans and many new residents from other states,” he told a crowd of about 1,500 people in a speech on the Capitol steps. “They are why we’ve continued to grow our investments in quality education. And they are why our personal income growth is the fastest in the country.”
Little spoke for just nine minutes. He said he would seek to reflect shared Idaho values and aspirations. Stepping up to lead Idaho in the midst of rapid urban growth, he paid homage to the Idaho’s roots.
“For generations, Idahoans have faced the challenges of living in the Western frontier and forged a better future for the next generation,” Little said. “Idaho pioneers did the hard work and made the hard decisions to create opportunities for their families and those who followed.”
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All four living former governors attended the ceremony. Much pomp and circumstance greeted the newly elected officials — cannon-fire shook the ground, and four A-10 planes flew overhead, to much applause.
Friends call Little a policy wonk. Former state Sen. Joe Stegner, a Lewiston Republican, said that early in his career, Little found it hard to “calm his overactive mind and string together four complete sentences on the same subject.”
The governor abstained from mentioning policy initiatives until his State of the State address on Monday. He did, though, make a point to emphasize Idaho’s constitutional responsibility to free public education.
“We must keep cultivating the skills of our citizens as we progress from a historically agrarian society to a modern information-driven economy,” Little said.
Mention of national politics was absent from Little’s speech. Instead, he chose to keep the attention on Idaho and its history. He mentioned the federal government only to push back against Washington’s “overreach.” He called for “Idaho solutions — where Idahoans enjoy the liberty of being masters of our destiny.”
As a former rancher, Little reflects the state’s agrarian base, which is slowly shrinking as counties like Ada and Canyon urbanize.
In an introduction, first lady Teresa Little shared a portrait of the Little family history, going back to the pioneers who arrived in Idaho when it was still a territory, and to the governor’s Scottish grandfathers who traveled to Idaho from Scotland in the 1890s to seek work herding sheep.
“Your ancestors may be indigenous to this beautiful land or you yourself may have just arrived,” she said to the crowd. “Our family is happy, honored and humbled to join hands with each and every Idahoan as we step into this brand new year with a new governor.”
Judy Hinman, the governor’s sister, said her brother has been involved in politics since he was 14. He carried the state flag at a Republican National Convention.
“He was made for this,” she said. “He has politics in his blood.”
Other state elected officials were also sworn in — unofficially, because the legal swearing-in comes Monday. The officials include a new state treasurer, Julie Ellsworth, who succeeds Ron Crane. Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, State Controller Brandon Woolf, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney all were re-elected in November and will begin their new terms Monday. All are Republicans.
The inauguration also saw the swearing in of Idaho’s first female lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, who has aligned herself with President Trump and pushed back against federal government intervention in Idaho.
In the crowd, Tom Bailey, 65, brushed off questions about Little — he was there for McGeachin. “She’ll represent the state well,” Bailey said.
“I’d like to see more of state funds go to the eastern side of the state instead of this Taj Mahal in Boise,” he said. He drove four hours from Idaho Falls for the inauguration, the first he has attended.
The inauguration was also the first for members of the Minico Young Republicans, a group of teens who drove nearly three hours to the Capitol.
“I’m excited to see how this new government affects our state as a whole and our local communities,” said Hana Pfieffer, a Minico High student.
Inauguration celebrations continue Saturday, with a ball open to the public in the Capitol Rotunda. Tickets are available for $25.
The Idaho Republican Party is hosting a private fundraising reception ahead of the ball. Jason Lehosit, former executive director of the state party, declined to provide the Statesman with a list of guests or sponsors.