The offices of Idaho's Legislators: 'It's who we are'

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — With paintings of George Washington, family photos and plaques from the Future Farmers of America, Idaho lawmakers who virtually live at the Capitol this time of year have personalized their offices, providing a home away from home while conducting the people's business.

Adornments on senators' and representatives' walls reflect who they are, where they're from — and often, how they legislate. Occasionally, they offer a touching insight into the events that have shaped their lives.

Take Rep. Maxine Bell, of Jerome, with a print of Logan, Utah, above her desk, showing the Cache Tabernacle and the building that once housed Brigham Young College. Logan is where Bell, the longtime House Republican budget committee chairwoman, spent her first eight years.

It's also where her father, Max Toolson, died of cancer at 33. That family tragedy uprooted Bell to southern Idaho, to be near her mother's family.

"You know how they treated cancer in those days?" Bell said, looking at the Logan print. "They tried to burn it out. It just took off like wildfire."

Back in Idaho, Bell recalls caring for her 3-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother while her mother, Norma, worked nights at Twin Falls' Hotel Rogerson.

"I'd put the children to bed," she says quietly. "Those things happen."

Until three years ago, most lawmakers had little room for such accoutrements; outside of leaders, they didn't have offices. The 30-month, $120 million taxpayer-funded expansion before the 2010 session changed that, providing enough basement space for 35 senators to have their own handsome little dens and for 70 representatives to get cubicles.

In hers, Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, has opted for a style that's part gun-rights Baroque, part western-Idaho Rococo.

A history of the Colt revolver company sits on her desk; a tongue-in-cheek flyer on her wall — clearly from somewhere outside Idaho — alerts criminals to a "Gun Free Zone," where people "have been disarmed for your convenience."

But for Boyle, who worked for the late Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth, the most significant keepsake here is her print of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Look closely beneath it and you'll find three lead rubbings of names: Earl Ford, Theodore Stampfli and Fred French; all were Boyle's friends in Susanville, Calif., her hometown; all died in Vietnam.

"A gentleman gave me a pencil," Boyle remembers, tearing up. "Ted was like my older brother; our parents went to school together. Fred was the best friend of my best friend's brother. I went to find their names."

Ask around about the most unique Capitol office, the response is a nearly bipartisan, "Moyle's. That's where he keeps his dead stuff."

Behind the House's third-floor chambers, Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, has squirreled away a menagerie of sorts, from the stuffed sage grouse he shot in in Owyhee County to the pheasant dispatched on his farm west of Boise. The six-point elk rack above his chair he pulled from the Salmon River ice, after it had been killed by a mountain lion.

There are antlers of a mule deer he shot and a skunk, too, but the dark wolf pelt he bought off somebody in Alberta — "to show people where Idaho's wolves came from" — is nearly everybody's favorite. "They all come in and pet it," said Moyle, a former outfitter. "Idaho is a state where we cherish our outdoor experiences, from biking to hunting and fishing. It's who we are."

Just who is Sen. Jeff Siddoway? That's on full display in his basement office suite. There, an enormous photograph of a wintry Sawtooth Mountain valley next to his desk shows a river of sheep, 3,000 in all, from two herds that got hopelessly mixed while being driven in one cold, distant February.

Siddoway, R-Terreton, may officially be the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee here in Boise, but allies and detractors alike know him far better as one of the Legislature's staunchest advocates of Idaho's ranching past and present — and easily one of Idaho's most ardent foes of wolves.

Within weeks, Siddoway will have more than 20,000 sheep: 8,000 ewes, 3,000 yearlings and 12,000 freshly-born lambs.

"We'll be done lambing by the third or fourth of April," Siddoway said, optimistic the 2013 session, like lambing season, will have run its course by then.

On the Idaho Senate floor, Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll's deep Catholic faith regularly guides her votes. In recent weeks, she's objected to Gov. C.L. "Butch' Otter's health insurance exchange, arguing it's absent adequate protections against barring insurance companies from covering abortions.

No reassurances from her Republican colleagues could allay her wariness.

In her Senate office, Nuxoll's faith also sets the tone, with one wall dominated by photos of her son at his ordination as a Catholic priest in Rome in December 2011.

It was a joyous occasion, she said, pointing to another photo of her family in front of the Colosseum where gladiators once fought; nearly everybody was there.

"Father Reuben," as she proudly calls her son, is now in Santiago, Chile, with the Legionaries of Christ; Nuxoll continues her own work in Boise.

"The church is extremely important to me," said Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood. "The principles of the Catholic Church are just common sense. That's what we should be agreeing on — good moral principles."


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.