Wit and Wisdom of Phil Batt

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Posted at 2:11 PM, Sep 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 10:23:54-04

Phil Batt has a calming presence about him, but make no mistake, Idaho's 29th Governor held his ground during his term in office, but also found common ground with opponents.

Batt has a new book titled "Lucky, the Wit and Wisdom of Governor Batt."

Before we talk politics or farming, we must also talk about his true passion, jazz, specifically the clarinet. The Wilder-native fell in love with the clarinet at a young age. Although it would stay with him his entire life, public service would come calling in 1965 and end some thirty-three years later.

"I got along very well with all the legislators regardless of parties, so I had my own agenda and very good friends for a long time," says Batt.

Batt lost a gubernatorial run in 1982 but as state G.O.P. chairman in 1993, they looked for a candidate to run against popular democratic candidate Larry Echohawk.

"We decided to eliminate everybody but me, so I was the chosen one," said Batt.

A poll showed Batt behind by as much as 35 points, but things got a little bit better as the campaign went. As a matter of fact, so good, Batt pulled off one of the biggest political upsets in state history.

"I was very pleased when I won somewhat lucky, thank you, that goes back to the book," he says.

Batt pushed for one of the largest changes in Idaho law with a bill that would make farmworkers, most of whom were Hispanic, eligible for worker's compensation. A move many of his farmer friends didn't like.

"Some of my own farmer friends were kind of offended, it was expensive for them, but we needed to do it very badly," says Batt.

He negotiated a deal limiting nuclear waste storage in Idaho, so it was no surprise Batt had some high ratings. So, why didn't he run for a second term?

"I never was a big politician, I mean I was more interested in farming; my wife was not keen about it, so we left after one term."

Agree with that or not, it is refreshing coming from a man who governed with common sense and decency. In his book, one of the areas Batt goes into is the lack of civility in politics today.

"I've been a Republican party and I pleaded for people to get along regardless of their differences," said Batt.

He sympathize with Governor Brad Little over the criticism he's receiving from his own party.

"He's a good Governor, I like his agenda. It's changed a lot to where, no, I can't talk about that."

One thing Batt can't stop talking about is his love for jazz. He even played with the greats Lionel Hampton and Gene Harris. A farmer, politician and yes, a musician.