reviewed by Becca Stroebel Kabasa
“Being for something is better than being against something.”- Cecil Andrus (134)
This quote is one of many political axioms that Cecil Andrus lived by and Chris Carlson used to show that Andrus was Idaho’s greatest governor. Carlson was Andrus’s former press secretary and his respect for Andrus is apparent throughout his book Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor: A Reminiscence. Although the book contains many biographical details, it is primarily a recounting of Carlson’s interactions with Andrus. This lends itself to a conversational tone maintained throughout the book.
Carlson recounts that Andrus never planned on getting involved with politics but found himself dissatisfied with the quality of education at his daughter’s school. Once in politics, Andrus flourished, spending four years as an Idaho Senator, four terms as Governor of Idaho, and one term as the United States Secretary of the Interior. In many personal stories and experiences, the author portrays him as warm, intelligent, and ethical, reporting that Andrus had a remarkable ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan way. Now 80, Andrus still works about 20 hours a week at his Downtown Boise office. He enjoys time with his wife of 62 years, Carol, their three children, three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
The conversational tone of the book and the many stories that Carlson recounts provide an intimate look at Andrus, not just as a politician, but as a mentor. It is inspiring to read about Andrus’s personality and his ability to connect with people. As Carlson recounts “…He reminded folks that he put his pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else. He never put on airs, and he always understood that he was a public servant. And it wasn’t an act. It was truly and genuinely him” (135). This understanding comes across strongly in the book and piques the reader’s interest about Idaho politics and how Andrus affected them.
The book could have used more editing, as there are slight grammatical errors that are distracting. Carlson also includes a chapter on his political battles against physician assisted suicide. Although it’s a cause he believes in, it doesn’t have anything to do with Andrus and detracts from the rest of the book
Visual documentation enhances the book, depicting the events and characters discussed. There are also several appendices which include Andrus’s election results as well as articles that garnered him attention in the press.
Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor: A Reminiscence is suggested for public and academic libraries interested in books about Idaho history and its politicians.
Becca Stroebel Kabasa is a Librarian Boise Public Library and an Adjunct Librarian at Boise State University.