After 47 years in the Statehouse as a legislator and secretary of state, Pete Cenarrusa has had the chance to be acting governor for the first time.
In fact, it’s the first time any secretary of state in Idaho ever has served as acting governor.
Gov. Phil Batt is in Arizona on vacation, as is Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Twiggs.
Lt. Gov. Butch Otter and House Speaker Michael Simpson both were in New Mexico on a trip to inspect the Waste Isolation Pilot Project near Carlsbad, a place where radioactive waste from Idaho is to be stored.
That meant that from Sunday through Tuesday afternoon, Cenarrusa was acting governor.
“This is great. I might get to like this,” he said Tuesday as he signed a proclamation declaring part of 1998 a “season for nonviolence.”
Cenarrusa, who will celebrate his 80th birthday next month, was elected in 1950 to the Idaho House of Representatives. He served through the 1967 session, the last three terms as House speaker.
In 1967, he was appointed secretary of state to fill a vacancy and has been elected and re-elected ever since.
In 1994, the Idaho Constitution was amended to change the state auditor’s title to controller, and the line of succession to the governor’s chair was clarified.
Cenarrusa noted Tuesday that when he first came to Boise from Carey in Blaine County as a legislator, the two-year state budget was $40 million, including $9 million for public schools.
This year, the state is spending about $1.4 billion in the general fund budget, including $705 million for education.
Cenarrusa, a Republican, said he considered running for governor in 1966, when Republican Robert E. Smylie ran unsuccessfully for a fourth term.
But “the timing didn’t come right,” he said. “There just wasn’t enough time to get set up.”
Just before he held a ceremony Tuesday to sign the nonviolence proclamation, Cenarrusa got a telephone call from Otter, who said he would be back in the state in a couple of hours.
“I’ll have all the damage done before he gets here,” Cenarrusa said.