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Monday, October 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Surgery puts Otter out of office for a week

By Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who missed a crucial month of last year’s legislative session because of hip surgery – during which state lawmakers rejected much of his agenda – was back on the operating table Monday, this time for unexpected shoulder surgery after a recent team roping accident.

“The governor zigged and his horse zagged; he caught the steer, but his shoulder didn’t fare well,” first lady Lori Otter wrote in a letter to lawmakers and state agency heads. She said the injury occurred about three weeks ago, but an MRI on Friday found serious enough damage that surgery was ordered for Monday.

“It’s never a good time to have surgery,” said Otter spokesman Jon Hanian. “It wasn’t an elective deal – it’s not something we could put off for a couple of months.”

Otter’s surgery was an outpatient procedure; he now faces 10 to 15 weeks of physical therapy.

Last year, Otter, now 66, went in for hip surgery on Jan. 29 and returned to work part time Feb. 21. Meanwhile, lawmakers stalled much of his agenda, including an ambitious plan to increase transportation funding.

Jason Kreizenbeck, Otter’s chief of staff, wrote in an e-mail to state agency heads on Monday, “We will be clearing the Governor’s calendar for the remainder of this week, but hope to ease him back into the office next week – which will probably be a welcome reprieve from his physical therapy.”

In his steer-roping accident, Otter suffered a rotator cuff tear, a detached rotator cuff tendon and a detached bicep tendon, according to the first lady. The surgery had to happen right away, she said in her letter, “to avoid scar tissue and tendon atrophy.”

The governor will work from home until his doctor clears him to return to the office. That’s what he did during his recovery from hip surgery last year. Lt. Gov. Brad Little filled in as acting governor only for six hours while Otter underwent the surgery.

Hanian said Otter, who owns a ranch, often does team roping with friends. “For his age he’s a very, very active guy,” he said. “He’s still cowboying and roping.”

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or For more news from Boise go to

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