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Citizens of 2013

Yes, we had favorites


Should old acquaintance be forgot? Not a chance. The Citizens of 2013 were a lively bunch: architects and artists; a chess champ and Boise's wizard of tennis; foodies and faith leaders; even a hotshot and a stripper.

And while 12 months may seem to fly by for most of us, a year can seem like eternity for others.

We started 2013 with a conversation with then-Boise Democratic Sen. Branden Durst. He spoke openly about how much of a challenge it can be to balance family and politics.

"Marriage is an ongoing process," Durst said in January. "Essentially, this has to be a family decision instead of a Branden decision."

By year's end, he had resigned from the Idaho Legislature, saying he needed to focus on his family's needs.

Throughout 2013, we spoke with a slew of other Idaho lawmakers (Reps. Cherie Buckner-Webb, Mat Erpelding, Holli High-Woodings, Luke Malek and Sen. Patti Anne Lodge), but the most personal conversation was with Ada County Commissioner Jim Tibbs, four weeks after undergoing triple bypass surgery in July.

"They determined that the main artery was 99 percent blocked, the one next to it was 90 percent blocked, and the one in back was blocked as well," said Tibbs, who told us, after recovering, "You have good days and you have better days."

We must admit that our interview with Nikeela Black might have brought a bit of bad luck to the young attorney/jockey. On the morning that our conversation was published, trumpeting how the divorce attorney was also one Idaho's winningest jockeys without suffering any serious injuries, Black was thrown from a horse during a workout, suffering some pretty bad injuries to the shoulder, leg and face.

When we met with Black just a few weeks ago, she looked like she hadn't had a scratch on her and insisted that this year's racing season was one of her best ever. Go figure.

We spoke to a wide array of pretty impressive young men and women in 2013: There was 14-year-old Luke Vellotti, a world-class chess champ who was preparing to begin his freshman year at UCLA; 18-year-old Samantha West, who was celebrated with writing honors from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers on the stage of Carnegie Hall; 8-year-old Mac Wirth, whose recipe for veggie barley salad won him a trip to have lunch with Michelle Obama; and 15-year-old Isabelle Krake, the proprietor of Just Baked Boise (our most delicious conversation).

Richard Epstein, intellectual powerhouse and professor of law at New York University, tried awfully hard to be our most challenging interview. The man whom Legal Affairs magazine called "one of the top legal thinkers of our times" was ornery at best and an absolute contrarian throughout the conversation.

"The only students worth training are those who want to be trained," he grumbled. "If they don't come to you, there's no point in going to them."

And then there was Kahlua. Or at least, that's what she wanted us to call her. But no, it's Boise Weekly's policy to print a person's real name. And that's why we identified her as Mary Thomas.

"For 25 years, I was Cinnamon, Terminator and then Kahlua," she said. "I've been Kahlua for 25 years."

And when BW sat down to talk to her, we learned about the 46-year-old's highs and lows as an exotic dancer.

"I may be blond, but I'm not stupid," she said.

Rest assured, not once did we think she was stupid.

Ron Pisaneschi manages a more, let's say, traditional form of entertainment. When we sat down to talk in September, he was about to take the reins of Idaho Public Television, after serving nearly 30 years as Idaho PTV's director of content.

"When you go home at the end of the day, you think you're doing something to make society a little bit better," said Pisaneschi.

But perhaps the most impressive Citizen of 2013 was Brian Cardoza, superintendent of the Idaho City Hotshots, who agreed to talk to us in July while battling some of this summer's nastiest wildfires.

Cardoza, a single dad, talked to us about how he tried to call his 6-year-old son back in their Boise home almost every night. But, on occasion, he has to apologize for not calling due to the intensity of a firefight.

"But in the winter, I can spend a lot more time with my son," said Cardoza.

Our New Year wish is that Cardoza and his son have a long, warm winter, and that next summer's wildfire season doesn't come too soon.