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Anthony Lyons

CCDC's new boss talks sawhorses, triathlons and selling burgers to classmates

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Anthony Lyons is a bit of an enigma. The new director of the Capital City Development Corporation is an intellectual, businessman, public servant and a top athlete--though he would probably push back at any of those labels. Without question, he is a free thinker.

Embracing his entrepreneurial spirit while still in high school, Lyons has lived and worked around the world and helped craft community development in Claremont, N.H. Most recently he was the director of the Community Redevelopment Agency in Gainesville, Fla. But now, he was quick to remind BW, he and his wife Wendy and their 6-year-old son, Asher, are Boiseans.

What was the big dream for you when you were in high school?

I started my own business. I was attending a boarding school. A friend of mine would pick me up after classes and we would drive into town and buy about 100 McDonald's hamburgers and sell them for a buck apiece to my classmates.

In what corners of the world have you lived?

Here in the states, I lived in New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Chicago, Boston, Santa Fe, [N.M.], Hilton Head, [S.C.], and Gainesville, [Fla.]. Overseas, I lived in the Hague, Netherlands. I attended Indiana University to study art history. While I was in college, I lived in Athens, [Greece], for two different years. That's where I met my wife, Wendy. She was also studying abroad at the time. We've been married 17 years.

Is your wife a professional?

She's a trained anthropologist. She's in the process of writing a book.

Did she show you some of her chapters or were you inclined not to read them until she's finished?

At the beginning, we talked quite a bit about it, but I think it's best that she retain it. It's really her work.

What do you do to recreate?

I have three things: family, work and then something else. My something else last year was participating in triathlons, something I got deeply into. I competed in the national championships in Burlington, Vt. Going forward, I'm not sure what I'll do.

Can you leave something that dramatic behind you?

Absolutely.

It's our understanding that there were more than 100 candidates for your job. What did the CCDC board tell you they were looking for?

Not to boast, but in my kind of role, I'm often recruited, but I actually found this opening on my own. After reading the recruitment brochure, I turned to my wife and said, "I found it." It was just like that. What were they looking for? I think it was me.

If I remember the short list of finalists for your position, there were a few candidates who lived in Boise or were from the Northwest. Is there an advantage to coming to this job as an outsider?

I don't look at it as being internal or external. It's neither here nor there. It's all stuff. You can live in the history books, or you can decide to live in the present and think about helping the city for its future.

Your office is quite bare.

My desk is on its way. I travel with my own desk.

What's so unique about it?

Back in 1995, I opened my first office in an old warehouse outside of Boston. I bought two bright-orange sawhorses and some weather stripping. And I walked by a windshield repair shop that had a huge piece of glass with a sign saying, "Take it now for $5." I put it together and that's my desk. I've had it ever since.

I'm a minimalist. You'll never see my degrees or awards on my office wall.

Are they in boxes at home?

Yes. It's all in the past. There's something to be said for not surrounding yourself with a bunch of stuff. It gives you an ability to think through things.

Would we be terribly surprised if you were still in this position 10 or 15 years from now?

The last thing I've ever done is chart my career. My expectations are to be here, period.

Time to get your sawhorses set up.

Absolutely, and let 'er rip. This feels really good here.

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