If you want to bring political cynicism to its knees, reflect deeply on the public life of Cecil D. Andrus. For decades we received the direct bounty of this extraordinary public servant and somehow considered it normal.
Cece Andrus was never just normal or a mere caricature of a politician. We were the beneficiaries of a political maestro who embodied the competency, skills, humility, rigor, vision, independence, daring, empathy and pragmatism of a true leader.
When you dive into the life and soul of Cece Andrus, the political labels and cynicism dissolve.
His humility was his strength. His common roots were deep and shared. He spoke the truth and shattered demagogues. He hugged kids because he saw the future. He confronted dark forces, confident the majority was behind him. Above all, his ethics were never questioned.
Looking back on the public service career of Cece Andrus should help us focus on the emptiness of so many political misfits now on stage.
Cece Andrus was the gold standard for public service. He attracted the best and brightest to lead Idaho. We shared him with our nation, but he was always ours to claim as Idahoans. We could stake that claim with button-busting pride.
As Idahoans we count our blessings in many ways, beginning with quality of life and access to wild places. He understood the political power of clean water.
Our diversified economy, our natural resources, our recreational opportunities, our kindergartens all form the base of the pyramid of good life that his stewardship gave to Idaho. He became distressed in 2006 when the stable revenue sources for education came unhinged for blatant political purposes.
But it wasn’t just the policies, legislation, laws or executive decisions that made our relationship with Cece Andrus so unique. He exhibited unbridled optimism, a deep, deep love of Idaho’s independence, and a passion for people. His verve, his nerve, his straight talk, his teamwork, his humor, his tall-in-the saddle posture, his elk hunting in No-Name Gulch, his love of goose blinds, his joy of a native fish rising to a dry fly and his love of family were unparalleled. He was a horse whisperer and dog lover. He grasped the essence of true friendship and never met a stranger.
In today’s polarized world this person who didn’t finish college was a distinguished veteran in the U.S. Navy, lost his first two attempts at public office, was a logger and small businessman, would somehow be considered part of the “establishment” because he served four terms as governor. There are rare public servants like Cece Andrus who stand this trite label on its head once you look back at his extraordinary career.
Cece Andrus knew the best job in the United States was serving us as governor. He answered the call of his president and country to serve in the president’s cabinet, but he did his tour of duty — as with the Navy — and came home to Idaho again. He knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to do it. Any empowerment he gained he shared. His enrichment came through his service to others.
Cece Andrus blessed us with his true grit and distinguished leadership. We are profoundly grateful.
Larry LaRocco represented Idaho’s 1st Congressional District from 1991 to 1995.
Cecil Andrus will lie in state in the Idaho Capitol rotunda from noon Wednesday until noon Thursday. A public memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Thursday in the Jordan Ballroom of the Boise State University Student Union. The family asks that donations in his memory go to the Andrus Center for Public Policy at BSU.