On Cenarrusa’s passing: ‘Whatever Pete said, you could depend on it.’

I’m working this evening on a column to remember retired Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, who died Sunday at age 95.

Revered for his integrity, Cenarrusa was loyal, public-minded and quick with a joke.

And it’s no accident he was the longest-serving state official in Idaho history.

“Never forget who you work for,” Cenarrusa told his employees. “The people.”

Ben Ysursa first heard that admonition almost 40 years ago when hired fresh out of law school as the country was healing from one of the worst shocks in American history — President Nixon’s 1974 resignation.

Cenarrusa mourned Nixon’s tragic end and the damage it did to the Republican brand.
But when Idaho voters went over legislators’ heads and enacted the 1974 Sunshine Initiative to require disclosure of campaign finances, Cenarussa enforced the new law with an even-handedness that made him a beloved figure.

“His advice to me was, ‘You have to go by the law and play it fair,’” said Ysursa.

“He was just respected by all walks of life, I don’t care what their politics are,” said former Idaho House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, R-Burley.

Check Monday’s Statesman for more, including comments from former Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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