Members of Boise Young Professionals thinking about running for political office anytime soon didn't exactly hear a recruitment speech April 3. In fact, a handful of young lawmakers suggested their peers keep their day jobs.
"It would probably be impossible for many of you to take three months off from your job, every single year, as well as all of the meetings and things we have in the interim," freshman Boise Democratic Rep. Holli High Woodings told BYP members, gathered in a conference room at the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Woodings was flanked by fellow freshman lawmaker Boise Democrat Rep. Mat Erpelding, as well as Boise Sen. Branden Durst (a newcomer to the Senate but previous House member) and four-term Nampa Republican Rep. Brent Crane, making up a quartet of the Idaho Legislature's youngest lawmakers.
Woodings said it's a common misconception that Idaho's lawmakers are well paid. In fact, it's just the opposite, according to Durst.
"We really need to start getting a more representative citizens' legislature," Woodings said. "I think we do that by recognizing the barriers that prevent entry to the Legislature and start to erode some of those barriers."
All four acknowledged their self-employment, which includes Erpelding's job as a mountain guide, Durst's consulting firm, Woodings' public relations company and Crane's alarm business.
"What I've observed is those who are under 40 during the last two terms are gone," said Crane. "There's just no way they can balance family and work and politics."
As a result, according to panelists, policy tends to be set by an aging Legislature.
"We get paid $16,000. It may sound like a lot," said Durst, "But when you try to go apply for a job, and you tell your future employer, 'Oh yeah, I'm going to be gone for the first quarter of the calendar year, they say, 'You're not going to be an employee here.'"
Crane suggested the young professionals prepare themselves for public service early.
"If it's something you want to get involved in, you have to have a plan," said Crane. "I knew what I wanted to do and structured my business and schooling around that."