A Place I Call Home

Yesterday, I celebrated five years with the Boise Valley Economic Partnership. I cannot thank this community and local business leadership enough for the opportunity to serve such a wonderful place. If you dare read on, please indulge me with a few reflections:

On my first visit to Boise, I arrived on a beautiful Fall Sunday night. I will never forget driving in from the airport and seeing the robotic Maytag Vista washing lady atop the building, passing the unexpected sign that pointed me to the Anne Frank Memorial, crossing over the pristine Boise River and looking down to see people, rafts and tubes afloat, only to look up and see the magnificent State Capitol building anchoring the downtown.

On my own for dinner that evening, I was amazed how many folks were walking, riding bikes and dining on 8th Street. What was most unique/different/special was that it was not just downtown adults, but “downtown families”, many of them on bikes with dogs in tow. I sat outside on 8th Street with my pizza and soda that night and thought, ‘This is the best downtown experience I ever have had in a midsize city.’ I also looked admiringly toward the mountains, knowing that 16 miles from my downtown dining table there were chairlifts on top of the mountaintop with radio towers.

I thought that night, ‘If I ever had the opportunity, this is a place I would never regret making home to the Krause House.’

A few years later, I finally moved to the Boise Valley. The first 100 days of work here I was alone; family had been left in New Mexico to sell the house and wrap up school. That first Monday driving in to work, I was struck by how slow people drove, but days later realized that the commute did not require the same need to speed as fast as you could to the next traffic jam. (I also discovered state troopers were diligent enforcers of posted speed limits).

I quickly established my old man predictable behavior patterns. The most beloved is stopping for a coffee at Flying M on my way to work. Not only is the coffee (and chocolate chip cookies) incredible, but Boise folks consistently hold doors open for you when your hands are full of cookies. I encountered teenagers (who usually declare you invisible upon the age of 40) that smile and say hello while walking down the streets, being “let in” to traffic when you use a turn signal and yes, neighbors that talk to each and gather to share meals.  I realized being a part of Boise meant that I was going to have to step my manners game up to reflect what my Mom had taught me when I was a child, otherwise, look like a complete schmuck to my new Boise neighbors. I sometimes still have to run back to hold the door I just let go of….

I was caring for my mother, and moved her to Boise a week after my job started here, and thought it would take forever to get her assigned to a medical doctor. She had dementia, so it was important for us to establish good health care for her. I was able to get her an appointment with Dr. Cohen within the first week of her arrival. Dr. Cohen met us in his office and told us he had scheduled up to an hour for us if necessary to assess her condition, provide information and get to know her. My heart filled up in that moment realizing that we had moved her to a place that provided some of the best national health care available. I can never thank Dr. Cohen from St. Luke’s enough for the kindness and laughter he shared with my Mom in those last few years of her life.

In late November, my kids Zach and Madeline finally made it to Boise and I was put in charge of enrolling them in to Highlands Elementary before my wife Amanda could join us the next week. Principal Sally Skinner met me that first day at the door with a calm and cool exterior that clearly stated:  I got this. My kids were whisked off to 3rd and 6th grade classrooms. As I nervously stood up to leave Highlands, looking like a deer in the headlights, Sally looked at me and said, “I will check in and see how they are both doing later.” I took this comforting assurance from her, as a way she probably had calmed down many frightened father deer in the past. To my amazement, she called me later that day to tell me that she had walked down to see Zach and Madeline in their classrooms and both were doing well.  Amazingly, she called me again two days later just to check in. Her act of kindness toward a new-to-town vulnerable father was just the reassurance I needed before getting on the phone to talk to their nervous Mom that night in New Mexico.

The work that we have accomplished (in many ways have just begun) at the Boise Valley Economic Partnership has been made possible by the amazing leaders I’ve worked alongside. Having the honor to work with Elwood Kleaver, my first sure-footed chairman, and the always-supportive Bill Connors, CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber, was a great way to start off my time at BVEP. Shortly after arrival, Dave Terrell became my local mentor, friend and Chairman for the next two years. We had a serious matter when it came to getting the financial and reputation part of the organization squared away that first year, and Dave insisted that this enormous task be accomplished in a room with bouts of comic relief that came in bursts from his extraordinary comic wit. He has taught me that heart and full throttle actions create the best results.

My next BVEP chairman was Michael Ballantyne and he comes with a love of family, friends, business and Idaho history. Michael is the Kevin Bacon of connectivity for all things Idaho past and present. He taught me that working hard needs to include being generous with your family, friends and co-workers.

Dave Self came in as BVEP chairman in 2014 and taught me that constantly challenging yourself to high expectations is worth the journey. A man who loves to be part of the happenings of this great community, you will find him at a Shakespeare performance one night and a Neurolux jam session the next.

This year, Mark Tidd has taken over as BVEP chairman and his LinkedIn profile says it best:  “quietly and tenaciously starting, building and leading.” Never take his quiet reserve as a sign that he is ready for a nap…he is just storing energy like a tiger that strikes with surgical accuracy. He has taught me that listening, watching and actions are more important than time spent holding the microphone.

In the last five years I have been a part of many great moments. I had the honor of meeting Steve Appleton a couple times before his tragic passing. He shared with us how much he loved this valley and wanted to see more opportunities inside the Micron rooftop. But he also stressed how important it was to create a more diverse local economy, so that when one business was struggling, the other businesses could level the community impact. That growing was the most important step forward.

I love the fact that local Fortune 500 CEO’s ski at Bogus Basin alongside their neighbors. That dogs, bikes, trees, blue fields, downtown markets, independent book stores, plays, locally grown foods, music, dancing, single-track and rafting are part of our midweek experiences.

The real thing I have been most grateful for in the last five years comes down to the quality of people. Boise Valley is a place where people work at being humble.  It is a place where work values include being kind to one another. It is where entrepreneurs are grown, where your word still matters, where people respect creative independence, kids still learn music in schools, neighbors watch out for each other, amazing teachers love our kids, police chiefs talk about the importance of treating the less privileged with respect and dignity…A place I call home.