Idaho's Oldest Lawmaker Turns 90

Dec 6, 2012

The 2013 Idaho Legislature is in town today for its annual organizational session.  This is when lawmakers choose their leaders and prep for the session which begins next month.  Today also happens to be Rep. Frank Henderson's (R-Post Falls) 90th birthday. 

Rep. Frank Henderson is Idaho's oldest lawmaker. He turns 90 today.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

Henderson, born in 1922, was a soldier in World War II and a reporter for a Chicago-area Hearst newspaper.  Henderson worked in advertising, publishing, and owned the Post Falls, Idaho newspaper before being elected to mayor and later county commissioner. 

It wasn't until 2004, at age 82, Henderson decided to run for the Legislature.  He's on his 5th term now, and retirement hasn't yet entered Henderson's vocabulary

Click 'play' to listen to part of our interview.  You can find the full interview at StateImpact Idaho's website.

Q:  First of all, happy birthday! Did you ever think you’d be in public office at 90?

A:  Uh no, I didn’t think I’d be in public office at 75 either.  Politics was never one of the subjects in my list of ambition.  My ambition was to be a newsman; I did that, left it, and then did industrial marketing.  I purchased a newspaper and I thought I’d retired.  Until, one day the person who was retiring as the mayor of Post Falls came to me and said the business community had talked about the next mayor and they wanted me.  I thought about it, I ran, and I was elected – that’s how it started.

Q:  I’ve been collecting demographics on all of Idaho’s lawmakers, this Legislature is pretty young with nine members in their 30s.  Still, Idaho's Legislature is older than most,  does age matter?

A:  I don’t think age matters, I think maturity matters.  I think in the Legislature it is important to have the diversity.  Two of the new legislators from our area represent that diversity.  One is a man highly skilled in the assessment and evaluation of properties.  The other is a young man who I believe just turned 30, who after several jobs, just received his law degree.  He will bring that young, energetic attitude into the Legislature that stirs us older folks into a new area of curiosity and investigation about what really is possible.  What really is necessary, in the Legislature.  So, diversity of age and experience I believe is essential.

Q:  Do you have any plans to retire?

A:  I did just run for reelection.  I don’t have specific plans on retirement; this could be my last term.  That’d be at total of 10 years in the Legislature.  It might be time to step aside and let one of those young people with new vitality and different education, different background, to be in the batter’s box so to speak.  I might do that.  On the other hand, it depends on what is undone at the end of two years.  If there is a special opportunity that we haven’t fully implemented by legislation, I might stick around one more time.  I’m not ready to make the retirement decision as yet.

Q:  What keeps you excited and motivated?

A:  It’s a totally satisfying experience.  Not only do the individuals in the Legislature work well together, we share a mutual respect, even though we may disagree violently on some things, we still respect the other person.  But frankly, the people back home.  It is so satisfying to do legislation that answers questions locally.  It’s common at the post office or the supermarket or the filling station that people will come up and say ‘Mr. Henderson, we appreciate what you do, thank you’.  That’s the reward.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio