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Tim Corder

Outgoing GOP state senator on politics, Vietnam, trucking and grandchildren


Mountain Home Republican Sen. Tim Corder is many things: husband, father, lawmaker, veteran, farmer, trucker and small business owner. But, above all, he loves to be called "Grandpa." The father of three and grandfather to three is looking forward to spending more time with his family in the wake of his May 15 loss in the closed GOP primary.

Because of redistricting, he was challenged by Rogerson Republican Sen. Bert Brackett in the race to represent Idaho Legislative District 23. Brackett will be challenged by Independent candidate Bill Chisholm on the November ballot. Corder, 62, the son of a Canyon County brick mason (his father was masonry foreman for Nampa's Karcher Mall and Boise's U.S. Bank building), always wanted to farm.

"As far back as I can remember, I was milking and baling hay at neighbors' farms," remembered Corder. "I loved the smell and the look of a farm. I still do."

Corder met his wife, LaVonne, when they were sophomores in high school. They were married by the time they were 18, and soon after, he found himself far from Idaho.

You enlisted in the Army right out of high school at the height of the Vietnam War.

From 1968 through 1971. I volunteered. It was the right thing to do.

Where did you end up?

Vietnam. That was 1970. We were just south of the [demilitarized zone].

Did that experience change you?

It was an experience that I never entirely returned home from. I don't know if I ever will be all the way home from there.

What took you from Canyon County to Elmore County?

Our combine. We farmed in Nampa and Parma, and then one day, I came down here to combine some grain. We liked the place and built our home here. A short time later, we formally began our trucking business. But conceivably, you could say that Corder Trucking has existed since 1971.

Does the trucking business shadow the nation's economy?

There's about a six-month lag, both good and bad.

To that end, what do you currently see when you're looking at the economy?

It appears to most that the economy is getting better, but there are underpinnings that skew what they see. Unemployment is not falling quickly enough, and while freight is moving, freight prices aren't coming up. Trucks always ought to be great investments. If you think of it, virtually everything in this country moves on a truck at some point.

Speaking of commercial traffic, how would you characterize the state of Idaho's roads?

Compared to other states, the management of commercial transportation is among the best in the nation. The roads themselves are mediocre at best.

Is truck driving still a great job?

It really is. We usually have a waiting list of folks who want to drive. You still get folks with college degrees that want to be left alone, walk away from some other things and hit the road. It's another world for them.

My sense is that you're one of the least political people to ever spend considerable time at the Idaho Capitol.

Thanks for noticing. I like to think so. I regret that I ever allowed people to call me a politician.

Having said that, at some point in your life, you decided to enter politics.

I never trusted the future of my children and grandchildren to anyone but me. So, years ago, I decided to make sure my business was set for my sons to manage while I was gone at the Statehouse.

I'm guessing that being a legislator took a lot more time than you imagined.

It really did, but that's the way I do the job. I'm certain that there wasn't anyone, not any other legislator, who gave better constituent service than me. Not one. I maintain pending files of things that my constituents need help with.

What do you remember from your years of working through those files?

People would call a state agency or department and they would get constant runarounds, bureaucrats being rude to them. They would go back and forth for weeks, until someone would say, "Call Tim." Well, I had a special phone book that always started with the names of people at the top of each agency. I would say, "This is Sen. Corder. I have this issue." And of course, they said, "OK, we'll take care of that." That's what legislators are supposed to do.

Let's talk about that primary. I've heard it said that you and Sen. Brackett are friends.

Actually, we're acquaintances. I use the word "friend" very sparingly.

Were the two of you ever at odds?

For some reason, he got engaged on the issue of soil conservation districts. I wanted to have them governed differently than he did. I was the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, and I wanted to have some more conversations on the matter. I went to his office to talk to him about it. I told him there were two things in the bill that I believed needed to be changed. He made the comment, "OK, but you can't keep changing your mind." In all my years in the Legislature, no one could accuse me of not being consistent. And Sen. Brackett had a bit of an angry tone in his voice. Well, I made it clear, within four seconds, that I hadn't changed my mind on the issue and this was the way it was going to be. That was the end of it.

How did your legislative district change through reapportionment?

It moved south and it expanded. I really didn't think they would go as far as they did in bringing so much of Twin Falls County into the district.

That resulted in an interesting mix of urbanites and farmers. Is there risk in that?

There's certainly risk to those who don't respond well to urbanites. For instance, I said that I thought the sales tax exemption for agriculture equipment ought to go away. It's simply not fair; it's a terrible idea. Eliminating the exemption would have been more equitable and eliminate some animosity that town people have against ag. I said, "One of these days, there's going to be more town people than ag people, and they're going to take everything away from you. So maybe you ought to sit at the table and offer something to make people feel better about ag." I was trying to get them to understand, and not be so selfish or greedy.

Would you ever consider lobbying?

For the right cause. I would only lobby for something I really believed in. I would never be a lobbyist that was for sale, a hired gun.

Where do you think the Republican party is heading?

Downhill and to the right.

Is there great risk there?

Risk to the party, to Idaho and to America. The idea of political parties was to get people engaged. But now, both parties in Idaho have become clubs. Look at the GOP closed primary and the caucuses. That's a club. Then they want to say who can be a member of the club. That's anti-American. That's socialism at the highest degree.

Do you have a sense that the Republican party will eventually lose votes because of this?

Absolutely. This pendulum is swinging. If anything, Idaho is dying for an active independent party.

What's next for you?

I'm beginning a column for the Idaho Business Review. Plus, spending a lot more time with the kids and grandkids. That's the best contribution to life I can make.