Fish & Game Commissioner Joan Hurlock had been at the microphone, speaking and answering questions from Senate Resources Committee members, for more than an hour when Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, thanked her, and commented, “That blond hair will sure look better on that commission that the gray hair we see – add a little color to it.” His comment drew some uneasy laughter from the room. Hurlock had started out visibly nervous and defensive, but by the end of the questioning, the mood was more relaxed as she discussed how she’s worked with sportsmen in her work on the commission.
Pearce then announced that 14 people have signed up to testify. First up was Doug Palmer, who brought his young grandson with him. “Without our interference, a great injustice is about to occur,” Palmer told the panel. “The injustice is the appointment of Ms. Hurlock who is not knowledgeable or qualified. … She doesn’t understand the issues and we don’t have the time to train her, so she should not be fit for the appointment.” He said, “We need a true sportsman to represent sportsmen, not a trainee.”
Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpelier, held up a copy of the flier Hurlock had mentioned opposing her confirmation and asked Palmer if he was familiar with it, he said no. Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, asked Palmer if he was familiar with the screening process for Fish & Game appointees, in which a committee interviewed candidates and put forth three names, “all of which were deemed qualified.” Brackett said, “I think if you like the process, then I think there’s some commitment to respect the process and accept the outcome.” Palmer said he thought Hurlock’s appointment was a “political” one on the part of the governor.
Dyke Nally, the retired state Liquor Dispensary director and a former president of the Idaho Wildlife Foundation, told the senators he served as chairman of the selection panel; he’s been on the screening committees for Fish & Game appointees since the days of Gov. Phil Batt. “I’ve got a passion for the outdoors,” Nally said. He said he was “stunned” to hear of opposition to Hurlock’s confirmation. “Ms. Hurlock had done her homework so well and had worked so hard and been involved with so many causes,” he said. “The committee unanimously, unanimously, was totally impressed with her preparation, her background, her growing up with her father as a game warden. ... I just want to set the record clear. .. There was no politics. Three really good names were sent to the governor.”
Bilee Dinges of Castleford, president of Magic Valley Republican Women, told the committee, “I think Joan’s done an excellent job of presenting her story. … I just feel it was very important that this woman was not railroaded because she was a woman. Because if you look at her credentials and you look at her resume, she was an outstanding candidate.” Dinges said she was concerned “there was literature being passed around that was negative and underhanded.”
Jack Oyler, who served on the selection committee, spoke against the confirmation, saying he talked with Hurlock and didn't feel she was sufficiently familiar with the issues. He said he didn’t have anything to do with the flier against Hurlock. “By the way, we stopped that flier,” he told the committee. “There was over 60,000 of ‘em printed and ready to go out to newspapers, and we stopped it, we didn’t let ‘em go out.” Oyler said, “One of the reasons I feel that she is not qualified is because she is becoming a rubber stamp for the Fish & Game … because the only thing she knows is what they’ve taught her.”
Monte Bruen told the committee that he and his wife have clashed with Hurlock and her husband in an organization both were involved with that helps wounded warriors go on hunting and fishing trips; he cited various barbecues and other events that he said Hurlock didn’t attend. “Joan hasn’t shown an interest or an aptitude in sportsmen,” he told the senators. Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, asked, “Have all the other Fish & Game commissioners participated in your organization?” Bruen responded, “This was an organization that was founded in Buhl and has close ties to her family.”