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Meet Idaho’s newest State Senator, Carrie Semmelroth, representing Boise’s District 17

Courtesy Carrie Semmelroth

When former Idaho Sen. Ali Rabe learned that her new home was outside of her legislative district, she stepped away from her seat in the Idaho Legislature, vowing to run for office in her new district. That resulted in Governor Brad Little ultimately appointing Carrie Semmelroth, strategic initiatives project manager in the College of Education at Boise State University, to the open Senate Seat.

“I was encouraged to apply,” said Semmelroth. “Ultimately, I applied to be of service to my community, my district and the State of Idaho.”

Semmelroth visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about her decision, after an unsuccessful political effort in 2014, to pursue this new opportunity, her hopes for 2022, and her thoughts on Boise State professor Scott Yenor who made national headlines when he advocated for fewer women be recruited by universities, adding that independent women were “medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome.”

“Based on what I'm hearing from District 17 voters and other people around the state, they've shared with me that they are concerned, and would like to see changes here in education and in the economy, as well as issues related to public land use, shared stewardship resources and wildlife management.”
Sen. Carrie Semmelroth

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News good morning. I'm George Prentice. With a new year comes inevitable change, and this morning, let's listen to a voice of change. Dr. Carrie Semmelroth is here. At Boise State University, she's a strategic initiatives project manager and indeed that could fill an hour or two. But for our purposes this morning, she is the new State Senator to represent District 17 in the Idaho State Senate.

SEN. CARRIE SEMMELROTH: Good morning, George.

PRENTICE: Talk to me about being sworn in. What was that like?

SEMMELROTH: I was sworn in by the Pro Tem on November 30th. And since then, the staff at the Statehouse have been incredibly supportive, helping me get up to speed and ready for the 2022 legislative session. I've also received a very warm and bipartisan welcome from both the voters here in District 17, as well as my new colleagues in the Senate and the House. It's been a whirlwind, but I am so excited to get to work.

PRENTICE: Talk to me about pursuing this appointment. You ran for office - I remember this in 2014 - but that was a while ago. What happened between then and now?

SEMMELROTH: I was encouraged to apply when Senator Ali Rabe stepped down. Ultimately, I applied to be of service to my community, my district and the State of Idaho, which are the same reasons why I ran eight years ago. I think the stakes are even higher now than they were when I ran in 2014. Idaho has seen tremendous growth and change, in addition to some of the issues that have been amplified through the pandemic. And so during this time of growth, it's more important, I believe, more important than ever, that we strategically invest the surplus that we have into areas that will keep our state great for our future generations to come.

PRENTICE: So, let's talk about that. You wrote, in accepting this that you were eager to draft and pass policy “geared toward creating a better tomorrow. “That is fairly lofty. But could you be specific for me?

SEMMELROTH: Sure. So of course, in addition to almost 20 years of working in and for public education, I'm an Idahoan who enjoys being outside in all that our state has to offer. Based on what I'm hearing from District 17 voters and other people around the state, they've shared with me that they are concerned, and would like to see changes here in education and in the economy, as well as issues related to public land use, shared stewardship resources and wildlife management, so that future generations can see and experience Idaho the way that you and I experience it.

PRENTICE: I would be remiss if I did not bring up Boise State Professor Scott Yenor and his…quite frankly, misogynistic remarks. When I look at your resume, you've got a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a Master's of Science In special ed, and a Doctorate of education. And honestly, if he had his way, you would not have been welcome in a university classroom, and most certainly would not be where you are today. So, I need to give you an opportunity to talk about a man who is a tenured professor at Boise State.

SEMMELROTH: Yes. So, you know, people in our community, especially our younger leaders, have already spoken out very thoughtfully and effectively on this topic, and I don't know that I can add anything new. I would like to add… to take this opportunity to remind of the importance of supporting women and underrepresented groups in positions of leadership, mid-level and beyond, because we know research shows, time and again, that diverse and representative leadership actually improves outcomes of whatever it is that we're measuring, whether it's business or profits, employee productivity, or student learning. So, this is really a reminder that different types of leadership are important, and we need to continue to do our best to elevate women and underrepresented voices.

PRENTICE: Well, I have to ask, do you think he's a liability for the university?

SEMMELROTH: I don't know that I'm in the position that can say whether or not he's a liability. I personally can reject the premise of those comments. I believe what's more important is to take whatever investments of reactions that people might have, and put that into a positive place. Let's shift our focus to young people, to women, to underrepresented groups who have spoken out and are able to translate this into something positive.

PRENTICE: So, are you in for the long haul? Which means running for this office and running again… and possibly again and again?

SEMMELROTH: Yes, absolutely. I'm here to work on issues that are focused on enduring for the long term. So in order to do that, I am committed to the long term process. And, you know, successful legislative work really starts with the relationships that we have, both with the people we are serving here in District 17, and the State of Idaho, as well as the relationships that we have with each other as colleagues in the Legislature. So, I'm excited that that work is off to a great start and I'm ready to hit the ground running on January 10th, 2022.

PRENTICE: She is Senator Carrie Semmelrtooth. Congratulations. Great, good luck in the New Year. Have a wonderful holiday season and we look forward to many conversations in the New Year and beyond.

SEMMELROTH: Thank you, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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