Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Long-time lawmaker leaves Legislature

Jaquet to teach, serve locally

Express Staff Writer

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, soon to be a former representative and newly seated Marketing Alliance board member, is wrapping up her last term in the Legislature. Photo by Willy Cook

The Legislature wrapped up its 2012 session last week, and at the same time, Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, began wrapping up her 18-session legislative career.

This was Jaquet's last session as a representative, a decision announced at the beginning of last year shortly after she was elected to a ninth term.

"There's something to be said for new ideas," Jaquet said at the time, when asked why she would not run again. "This is my ninth term. That's a long time."

She took her seat in 1995, when the late Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, left the House to run for Senate.

Ironically, Jaquet said she had never imagined being in politics in Idaho. She has degrees in political science and public administration from the University of Washington, was being groomed to run for county office when she was living in San Francisco in the early 1970s, and even worked with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., when Feinstein was a county supervisor in San Francisco.

"I always wanted to be in politics," Jaquet said.

But when her husband, Jim, was hired as the Ketchum city administrator in 1977, she packed up herself and her two boys and moved to Idaho.

"I figured that was the end of my political career," she said. "I was a woman, a Democrat and pro-choice in a state where those things aren't accepted, let alone embraced."

So Jaquet threw her talent and passion behind other organizations. She served on the Wood River Advisory Committee of the Arts Board, as well as the boards of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, the Community Library, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and the Region VII Tourism Committee.

By 1980, she was the business manager for the N. Taylor Stonington wholesale and retail art business, and began coordinating the Ketchum Wagon Days events. She said her involvement in these organizations helped form the foundation of her eventual career in the Legislature.

Through her work with the arts community, Jaquet found herself lobbying the Legislature for more funding for arts programs. The gentleman she had to convince was Rep. Mack Neibaur, R-Paul, who was chair of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee at the time.

"I had to lobby him for funding for the arts at a time when the state had no money," she said.

But like Jaquet, Neibaur came from a small rural town where it was difficult to get money for arts programs other than through government funding. Jaquet got the state funds—and respect from Neibaur, she said.

"He didn't endorse me," she said of the notoriously fiscally conservative lawmaker, "but I think he said nice things about me when I ran."

A bipartisan endorsement couldn't have hurt Jaquet's votes, but she said it might have been her involvement in Wagon Days that won her the seat in the House.

"I read that this woman said, in the [Twin Falls] Times-News, 'If that girl can run Wagon Days, she can run our Legislature,'" Jaquet said with a laugh, adding that her active involvement through arts and also as executive director of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce helped her become well-known in the state.

"I probably met more people in the state than most people who live here," she said.

Why throw herself into the political arena at all? Jaquet said that this legislature is extraordinarily responsive to its constituents. As an example, she told a story about being vice-chair of the Blaine County Democrats in 1990 when the Legislature, under Gov. Cecil Andrus, was debating the state's strictest anti-abortion bill to date.

The bill would have made abortion illegal except in cases of non-statutory rape reported within seven days, incest if the victim were under 18, severe fetal deformity or a threat to the mother's life.

Jaquet said that as the bill made national news, she was getting calls from people in New York, San Francisco and other cities across the nation.

"We had all of these people calling, saying 'We're not going to come to Sun Valley if this bill goes through,'" she said.

She alerted Andrus of the calls and lobbied against the bill—a bill that Andrus vetoed despite its passage by the full Legislature.

Andrus later told Jaquet that he had vetoed it based on her message and the feedback from others.

"I think that's one of the great things about politics in this state," she said.

Though Jaquet will no longer be taking a seat in the Legislature, she will take a seat on the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, serving as secretary for at least the first part of her three-year term.

She will also teach one political science class at Boise State University every Saturday morning at 8 a.m., which she said will not conflict with her Marketing Alliance obligations.

After that, she said, she has plans in the works to possibly develop her class into a one-hour program for Idaho Public Television and possibly teach or team-teach political science classes at College of Southern Idaho.

"There are a bunch of opportunities out there," she said. "I don't think I'm going to be bored."

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