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Lauren McLean

"The responsibility is daunting."

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Lauren McLean, 36, is not Boise's youngest City Council member. T.J. Thomson still is.

"I'm older by one month,"McLean said with a laugh.

McLean was sworn into office Jan. 11 and she's expected to take her civic activism into a much bigger spotlight. Mayor Dave Bieter hand-picked McLean to fill the seat vacated by Vern Bisterfeldt when he was elected to the Ada County Commission.

McClean's resume includes time as manager of the Foothills Open Space Initiative and as commissioner for both Boise's Parks Commission and the city's Planning and Zoning Commission.

Where did you grow up?

I lived in Houston until I was 16, then we moved to a small town, Cazenovia, in upstate New York. We went from a city of 3 million to a village of 3,000.

And you attended college at Notre Dame.

It was perfect for me at the time. I spent a lot of time volunteering and learning about active engagement. And I spent a year of studies in Angers, in France's Loire Valley.

What was the big dream for you then?

It was bifurcated. Before I went overseas, I really wanted to do foreign service work. But when I returned, I spent a summer in Montana, working in the governor's office on natural resource planning. It really got me thinking about the west.

What brought you to Idaho?

My husband Scott got a job at Hewlett-Packard in 1998. [He's currently a professional services consultant for Healthwise.] I went to BSU for graduate school and got a master's in Public Administration in Environmental Policy.

How did your interest in the City Council start?

I think the roots of my interest came from my work with the Parks Commission and Planning and Zoning. But I must tell you that it was hard for me to "pull the trigger."

What was the hardest part of it?

Having my name printed in the paper. It really was. Even though my husband assumed I would do it, I kept rehashing all of our conversations about the possibility.

Was he more sure than you were?

Oh, yes. Because it's my name, not his.

My guess is you've been through your share of interviews over the years. Did you approach this any differently?

Not really. I was going to be honest about the issues, and I would let the chips fall where they may. I thought it was real important not to try too hard to please Mayor Bieter during the two interviews.

You certainly have to be looking at this as much more than just an appointment. Presuming you're successful, you would face a special election in November and yet another election for the same seat in 2014. Have you ever run for office before?

I haven't. I think other than having my name in the paper, that's the part that made me think twice. It will be very different than anything I've done before. I hope that I'll be comfortable by then. But for now, I really want to focus on the process of being a City Council member: learning about the issues, talking to people who know the most about the issues and figuring out what my niche is on the council.

Do council members have niches?

I think that in almost any social environment, you end up with a niche. Right now, I'm most interested in quality of life, economic development and transportation.

What would you say to someone who may think that you would be lockstep with whatever the mayor wants?

I would say they don't know me very well. I fully expect that there will be times that we whole-heartedly agree and times we don't. I'm very much my own person and that's why I went into this.

What do you do to relax?

I run most mornings. When I'm running with friends, it's social. When I run alone, I'm sorting things out. I ran a 50K marathon a couple of years ago. And this April, I'm running the Boston Marathon.

Do you feel that when you add something to your professional life that you have to closely protect your personal life?

I've really focused on that in the last year and a half. It's really important to me.

What are you looking forward to most?

Being even more involved in making my home a place I'm very proud to call home. The responsibility is daunting. It really is.

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