Longtime Idaho Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes has decided not to seek another term in the Senate’s top leadership post, and his decision already has prompted two senators to seek the post - Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, and Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg.
Geddes distributed an embargoed press release to his fellow senators in hopes that he could hold off the announcement until Wednesday, the day his local newspapers come out, to allow them to break the news. But it quickly spread on the Internet, and Geddes said this morning, “I’m guessing that floodgate is open.”
He said, “I don’t know that anybody was going to challenge me, but it’s always good to leave before you have to face that challenge. It’s been a wonderful experience for me to serve as the pro-tem for 10 years, the longest term in Idaho’s history.” During his time in the top leadership post, Geddes has made a series of changes - including a key change in committee hearing schedules - that diluted the impact of seniority and allowed all senators to have more of a role in the body’s decision-making. “I think what I’ve tried to do is change a little bit of the dynamic and the mentality and the structure of the Senate,” Geddes said. “I’ve worked hard to empower all of the senators to be able to represent their districts and represent themselves.”
Gone are the days when a few key senators served in leadership, held down committee chairmanships and also occupied coveted spots on the joint budget committee, a time when, a few decades ago, the lineup of powerful senators was referred to as “Sirloin Row.” Said Geddes, “My objective was to kind of put sirloin in every row. I think we have that now.”
Geddes said when he first started in the Senate in 1995, seniority was such a big factor that he wasn’t able to get but a single committee assignment, education. “A new senator would come in and they were told to sit in their seat and if they wanted to say something not to, that their job was to learn at the feet of the older senators,” he said. “We don’t have that luxury any more, because people are a little bit angry at the political process anyway. … When those people are elected, they’re elected to represent a district. Those districts all have a need for a senator who is capable and credible and has access to the process.”
He said he figures those changes are part of what kept him in the highly sought top leadership post for so long. Plus, his schedule changes mostly freed up Friday afternoons from committee hearings - a popular move for senators who often faced a many-hours drive home each Friday night in winter weather.
As for what’s next for Geddes, he said, “I really don’t have seniority on any committee. And so if you look at the seniority process, I’m probably not in line for a chairmanship. I will have a very nice office in the basement, because all of the basement offices are very nice. I hope to contribute. I hope to be a senator who enjoys the responsibility and the benefits of serving, and doing a good job.”