Economic opportunities, better education, protecting clean air and water, and public access

By Dick Dorworth

StennettMichelle Stennett has been a member of the Idaho Senate since 2010 and Senate Minority Leader since 2012. One of seven Democrats in the 35-member body, Stennett is the incumbent candidate to represent District 26 in the November elections against Republican Dale Ewersen, who unsuccessfully challenged her in 2014.

In an interview with The Weekly Sun, Stennett says she is “pleased with the level of communication in the Senate because it is civil, mutually respectful and highly deliberative.”

“Jobs continue to be my top priority,” Stennett writes on her website. “Creating an economic environment that supports our families is critical to Idaho’s future. Economic activity depends on transportation systems, energy, and telecommunications and excellent education in our K-12 schools and universities.”

Stennett feels that an educated, competitive workforce will make Idaho attractive to employers, and can support the small businesses critical to creating good jobs.

“A skilled workforce also draws better wages, keeps our families together and helps our communities prosper… I hold a deep respect for the strengths and culture of ranch and farm communities. I will strive to protect agricultural and ranching heritages in local communities while preserving our most precious natural resources,” Stennett adds in her website.

She also says that outdoor recreation is an important industry that creates jobs for small businesses and communities, and that the legislature can do more to support tourism in Idaho, one of the state’s largest economic drivers.

Stennett believes in standing strong on maintaining access to public lands, and supports legislative efforts to study, fund and implement water conservation, including aquifer recharge and better managing water resources.

“In the state legislature, we work for everybody,” Stennett said. “Our legislative district is purple because of our mix of Republican and Democratic counties.”

Born in Sacramento, Calif., in 1960, Stennett moved with her family to Wisconsin at the age of 8, where she stayed through high school. Her mother was a housewife and her father, an avid fly fisherman, was president of a shoe company and instilled in Michelle a love of the outdoors.

She graduated in 1982 from the University of Oregon with degrees in international relations, environmental studies and Latin languages and a minor in business. After college, she worked as a volunteer for philanthropic organizations in rural communities in Kenya, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

Michelle returned to the U.S. to work in San Jose, Calif., and Alaska, before settling in Idaho, working for Horizon Air, Sun Valley Aviation and Channel 13 television in Hailey, owned by Clint Stennett, a member of the Idaho Senate since 1994 and Senate Minority Leader in 1999. They were married at River Run Lodge in Ketchum in 1996. When Clint’s health declined, in 2010, Michelle began serving as acting state senator, and a month after Clint died, in October 2010, she was elected to that same position with 57.9 percent of the votes. In 2010, she was Caucus Chair and became Minority Leader in 2012.

Stennett currently serves on committees for State Affairs, Resources & Environment and Local Government and Taxation, as well as many interim committees, including the Legislative Council on River Governance and the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.