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Former Gov. Phil Batt honored with Idaho Medal of Achievement

January 4, 2019
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Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, at right, bestows the Idaho Medal of Achievement on former Gov. Phil Batt, center, as Gov.-elect Brad Little looks on during a presentation in the governor’s office Thursday.

BOISE — Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt has been awarded the 2019 Idaho Medal of Achievement, the third-ever recipient of the award that is the state’s highest civilian honor.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, who joined Gov.-Elect Brad Little and former Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout to bestow the award on Batt at a ceremony crowded with well-wishers and supporters in the governor’s office on Thursday, said, “Phil is one of those rare leaders who transcends political ideology and brings people together.”

Batt said, “I’m absolutely delighted with the award. It’s a great honor to me.”

Batt, 91, was Idaho’s 29th governor, serving from 1995 to 1999.

A successful onion farmer from Wilder, Batt also served as Idaho’s lieutenant governor and a state senator; he championed major human rights legislation and won accolades from all sides of the aisle, while also earning the nickname “Gov. Tightwad” for his frugal ways.

Batt, a former Idaho Republican Party chairman, also is credited with building the state party into the powerhouse it is today; since he took office as governor in 1994, Republicans have held the office ever since, along with big majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

Both Otter and Little said it was Batt who first asked them to run for office. Little called the award “a true testament to his dedication, service and contributions to Idaho and all our citizens.”

The two previous recipients of the medal were Idaho teacher-astronaut Barbara Morgan and the late Idaho human rights activist Marilyn Shuler.

Batt shared some recollections with the crowd, from the strong role that music has played in his life — he’s an accomplished jazz musician, playing the clarinet and saxophone professionally — to his experiences in farming, World War II, golf and politics. As governor, he recalled, “My staff was 55 percent women, and they did a great job for me. Women helped me clear through.”

Batt said, “I’m proud to be an Idahoan, I was born here and lived here my whole life. Butch has been a great governor, nothing too hard for him.” He also praised how Otter and Little have worked in tandem with Little as lieutenant governor. “They’ve done it together,” he said.

Batt declared, “I’ll always be for Idaho, the same as ever.”

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