BOISE - Idaho Gov. Butch Otter on Wednesday appointed former Lewiston city manager Jan Vassar to the Idaho Transportation Board, the first woman to serve on the state’s highway panel since it was established in 1951.
The appointment comes as the current board faces a wrongful termination lawsuit from former Transportation Director Pam Lowe, whose allegations include sex discrimination. She was the state’s first female transportation director.
Vassar, whom Otter appointed to fill out the remaining seven and a half weeks in the late Bruce Sweeney’s term on the board, said, “In my position, I’ve been the first woman or the only woman oftentimes in the room, but I feel like I’ve been afforded respect and consideration for my viewpoints. I’m excited. I hope I can bring a little gender diversity.”
Asked about his historic appointment of the first woman to the board, Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, said, “The governor looked at it in terms of finding the best person for the job. … He was interested in finding the best person, and he feels he has.”
Otter said he’ll decide later whether to appoint Vassar to a full six-year term when her current term ends in January.
Vassar said she was interviewed by Lt. Gov. Brad Little and members of Otter’s staff, but hasn’t yet gotten a chance to speak with the governor himself. “So I can understand why he might want to get to know who I am,” she said.
Vassar currently serves on ITD’s public transportation advisory council, and when she was city manager for Lewiston from 1992 to 2006, she supervised both the city’s transportation program and the airport, along with police, fire, parks, community development and public works.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Washington State University. Prior to becoming city manager in Lewiston, Vassar was director of administrative services, executive assistant to the city manager, and city clerk.
“We’ve had two strong district representatives in Bruce Sweeney and Mike Mitchell and they’re big shoes to fill,” Vassar said. “I would like to contribute if I can.”
Otter praised Vassar, saying, “I’m pleased that Jan is joining us in the work of maintaining and improving our essential state infrastructure. Her experience with handling budgets, managing employees, overseeing construction and being entrusted with the people’s money will be a great asset to the Transportation Board.”