BOISE – Crowds stood respectfully in front of the Idaho state Capitol on Wednesday as former longtime Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus made his final trip into the building, where he will lie in state through noon on Thursday after his death last week at the age of 85.
Andrus was elected four times to be Idaho’s governor, served as U.S. secretary of the interior, and became an icon of Idaho politics whose extensive accomplishments on education, the environment and other issues stood out all the more because they were achieved by a Democrat in a heavily Republican state.
After Andrus was honored with a 19-gun salute, the crowd filed slowly into the state Capitol, where the flag-draped casket was placed in the center of the first-floor rotunda.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican, told the crowd, “I want to talk for a minute about what made Cece so special in the context of today’s bitter partisan ideological divides.”
“I became lieutenant governor in 1987 at the same time that Cece returned for his second go-round,” Otter said, referring to Andrus by a widely used nickname. “People who knew me from my maverick days in the Legislature a decade earlier figured there would be quite a train wreck, with a political odd couple like Andrus and Otter in the Statehouse. And it was true we had our differences.”
“We had contrasting political styles,” Otter said. “He was polished and strategic. I was in need of what Cece constantly called new training wheels.” The crowd laughed appreciatively.
“But while we disagreed, there was no train wreck,” Otter said. “There was, in fact, a validation,” instead, that Idaho’s system of government works.
When the Idaho Senate was split 21-21 between Republicans and Democrats after the 1990 election, Otter noted that as lieutenant governor, he served as president of the Senate. “I had the tie-breaker, and he had the veto stamp,” Otter said, adding, “He could still one-up me on that.”
Otter said that though he and Andrus had their disagreements, “We also had Idaho’s best at heart – and he led the way.”
“A lot of folks now in Washington, D.C., and right here in this building could take a lesson from Cecil Andrus,” Otter declared. His voice breaking with emotion, he said, “We were fortunate to call him an Idahoan, and I was blessed to call him my friend.”
Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt, a Republican, spoke on behalf of all former Idaho governors. He called Andrus “one of the most dedicated and effective leaders this state has ever known.”
Batt said he started serving with Andrus in the Idaho Legislature in 1965. “I worked with Gov. Andrus for over half a century,” Batt said. Together, he said, they – and others who did the same at the time – proved that leaders don’t have to be from the same party to work together.
“We can be very proud that Cecil Andrus has given such outstanding service for us,” Batt said.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter announced that Capitol Park, across the street from the state Capitol, will be renamed Cecil D. Andrus Capitol Park; the announcement brought thunderous applause in the Capitol rotunda, where onlookers were gathered not only on the first floor where the ceremony took place, but also watched, looking down, from the floors above.
After the ceremony, people lined up to sign a guest book and pay their respects to the state’s longest-serving governor. He will lie in state until noon Thursday. A public memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Thursday at Boise State University.