BOISE — Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter isn't planning to take his retirement sitting down.
After 12 years as Idaho's top elected official, the longtime politician will hand over the reins to his current lieutenant governor, Brad Little, in January.
Otter sat down for a one-on-one interview to reflect on the past, present and future for him and the state he has led for more than a decade.
When asked about his plans for the future, Otter insisted he will remain active.
"I want to go out as a meteor, not a burnt flame," he said. "My mother died two years ago at the age of 101 and was active until the day she passed. And I intend to do the same thing and in the same way. I'm gonna stay active whether it's something that takes me around the world or takes me on a mission."
A catholic-based mission would bring the Caldwell native, full circle. After all, he spent a year after high school at a Benedictine monastery in Washington at his father's urging.
"My story is I left the monastery when they told me I couldn't be pope," he laughed.
Otter graduated from the College of Idaho in 1967 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science but his father-in-law, Idaho agricultural magnate J.R. Simplot, asked him to run a company potato plant, and that began with him shoveling potatoes in the cellar of the plant.
"So you can't say 'I married the boss's daughter and next thing you know I'm president,'" he said. "It didn't go down like that."
Running the plant would eventually turn into running Simplot International, a job that would take him to over 80 countries helping to grow the Idaho company to one of the nation's largest food companies.
His political career started in 1972 when he won a seat in the state legislature. He was hooked.
He became lieutenant governor in 1987 and served under three different govenors for 14 years before leaving to take his congressional seat in Washington, a job that he nearly left after the first term.
"You gotta remember, I'm coming out of the business world where I say an idea at lunch, and it's company policy at one o'clock," Otter said. "But it doesn't work that way in politics and I lacked the patience."
He closed out his third term in Congress, walked into the governor's office and went on to become the longest-serving incumbent governor in the United states.
But it wasn't always smooth sailing.
"Remember, when I came in the unemployment rate in Idaho was 2.9 percent. And two years later it was 9 [percent]. Three years later it was 9.2 percent," Otter said. "The economy and following that we had a hundred-thousand people in Idaho out of work. And so we needed to do some real strategic moves."
The recession took its toll in Idaho where deep cuts hit all corners of the state including commerce, education, transportation.
His slogan was "focus on necessary, not the nice," and many thought that meant the end of funding state parks as was the case in neighboring states at the time. But Otter is quick to point out they didn't do that here because of the pioneer spirit of communities that came to the rescue.
"Those communities responded," he said. "The Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the 4H, the FFA. '[They said] we're going to go out and help paint the fences and we're gonna do this and we're gonna do that' and we never shut down a park."
The following years he helped engineer Idaho's recovery which is back to the numbers he had when he first took office 12 years ago. Idaho is the fastest-growing state in the West, start-ups and existing companies from out of state are springing up in the Gem State every month.
But, even though he feels good about turning over the governor's seat to Little, he doesn't believe things are on auto-pilot.
"There's a lot to be done," Otter said. "First off, this Brad's first year and it will be the last year of my five-year plan for education. And I have to tell you I had a lot of great friends that helped me put that five-year plan together."
And as this cowboy from Canyon County rides off into the sunset, he says he leaves with little regret, and a little advice for his successor.
"I think I think Idaho is going to be in great shape with the folks that I leave behind," he said. "Plus, we're going to leave with about $500 million in savings so they're got a little buffer against the things that we went through in '08, '09 and '10 and they've got a they've got a good model to look at.
"Focus on necessary," he added.
For more on Gov. Otter's interview, be sure to check out Viewpoint on KTVB Sunday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 a.m.