Music teacher, advocate for education and LGBT rights, lawyer-in-the making. That's quite enough for a lifetime, let alone for 44-year-old John McCrostie. He's also one of Idaho's newest lawmakers, though, and is starting his freshman year in the Idaho House, representing Garden City's 16th legislative district.
"Ultimately, I just want to serve. That's my purpose," said McCrostie, who punctuates most of his positivity with a smile.
McCrostie has no illusions. He knows all too well that he'll be burning the pre-dawn and midnight oil between the Legislature, law school and his constituent commitments, so it was a rare opportunity for Boise Weekly to sit down with Garden City's newest legislator and talk about his roots, multi-tasking and his plans for what will probably be his busiest year to-date.
Tell me about your formative years.
Mom and dad had been married for 14 years, trying to have kids, when they finally decided to adopt. They were stationed in Okinawa [Japan]; that's where they adopted me right after I was born.
Have you explored any of your biological roots?
All I really know is that I had a Caucasian parent and a Japanese parent. I feel loved by my family. They're not the family who gave birth to me, but they raised me. Interestingly enough, soon after I was adopted, maybe eight months later, they gave birth to a son. We're as different as night and day because he's so fair-skinned. A younger sister came six years later.
What were your early days in teaching like?
The one teaching job I could get was in the town I was trying to run away from—Mountain Home. I taught band at the local junior high.
Was that the career path you wanted to follow?
A couple of years into that career, something happened. I discovered that I was gay.
What can you tell me about that discovery?
Once I came to realize that, there were so many pieces of my past that all of a sudden fit into place. It was 20 years ago. It was pretty overwhelming, but very satisfying. Everything made sense.
But you were in a pretty conservative community.
I admit that I was afraid of being outed in Mountain Home. It was challenging to be a gay teacher in 1997. I moved to Boise, worked in title insurance for a while and in tech support at Hewlett-Packard for six years. And now, I teach band at Grace Jordan and Collister elementary schools. And then I head over to Concordia Law School for afternoon classes. I'm a third-year student there.
But how will you handle all of that during this legislative session?
I'm on a leave of absence until the end of the session. Then, I'll return to my classrooms and finish out the school year in the spring. And during the session, I'll probably take one evening class at Concordia.
Can you tell me what it will take for the Democratic Party to gain traction in Idaho?
Democrats were able to get one more seat in the Legislature in spite of Republicans taking all of the top state offices. I really think there are some more seats that we take from the GOP.
Will you attach your name to any proposed legislation this session?
I have a personal bill that I would like to bring to revise the probate code. Currently, if someone dies and there are absolutely no heirs, then that estate goes to the state of Idaho. I'm proposing that we earmark that for education.
I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about this year's proposed Add the Words measure. Gov. Otter insists that there will be a committee hearing this year.
Everything I hear is that, yes, there will be a hearing. Whether it gets through a committee is a whole other can of worms.
Can you appreciate that media will turn to you particularly to comment on that issue during the session?
Are you prepared to accept that mantle?
That's difficult. I'm a freshman. I'm not going to carry Add the Words this session. Plus, if I were to carry it and if it fails, it would be disastrous and, in so many ways, it would tear down my credibility in advocating for the LGBT community.
I know that the Huffington Post wrote a profile of you for that very reason: being an openly gay legislator in Idaho.
I promise you, when I attended a pre-session legislative tour in northern Idaho, they could have cared less about the Huffington Post.
How are you measuring your enthusiasm for all of this change?
I'm excited; it's a huge opportunity. The legislature is a big learning curve. Hey, I'm a teacher so I'm all about learning.