Dirk Kempthorne, former governor of Idaho, and former US secretary of the interior, is a proud graduate of University of Idaho. Kempthorne was inspired to pursue public service after serving as the president of the Associated Students of University of Idaho. University of Idaho is where he met his wife, Patricia, also a U of I alum.
Dirk Kempthorne began his commitment to public service as the highly successful mayor of the City of Boise (1985-1992). During his seven years in office, he helped direct a renaissance in the state's capital city that resulted in record growth, economic development, and numerous national honors and recognitions for quality of life, business climate, and family issues.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 1992. His first bill, to end unfunded federal mandates on state and local governments, became Senate Bill 1 in the 104th Congress. He also authored the new Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996. Both bills were signed into law by President Bill Clinton. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he worked to improve the quality of life for American active-duty military personnel, reservists, their families, and veterans.
Kempthorne was elected governor of Idaho in 1998 and reelected in 2002. He was a champion for education, both early learning and K-12, including the third-grade reading initiative, and higher education. He initiated a program to enhance Idaho's highways by improving safety and expanding intra-state commerce, which has saved hundreds of lives each year on Idaho highways. He championed mandatory sentences for methamphetamine manufacturing. As governor he obtained the largest appropriation for state parks since their creation. He worked with neighboring states to develop a state-based solution for returning salmon runs in the region. Following the wildfires of 2000, he worked to change the approach to forest health and wildfire management.
In 2006, Governor Kempthorne returned to Washington, D.C. to serve President George W. Bush as the 49th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. He was confirmed on May 26, 2006 and took the oath of office on the same day. Upon taking office he instituted department-wide ethics reform which was a priority throughout his tenure. He directed the establishment of a creed, “Stewardship for America with integrity and excellence.”
In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service, he led the Centennial Challenge, a groundbreaking public private partnership to repair our parks and encourage visitation. A true outdoorsman, the governor frequently highlighted our national parks as a great American treasure and encouraged families and children to get outdoors and explore our lands. As administrative authority for the freely associated states in the South Pacific, Kempthorne visited islands throughout the Pacific. He worked closely with island leaders to address their unique challenges and facilitate coordination across Federal agencies. In his role as water master for the Colorado River, he helped guide the seven states that rely on water from the river, to properly share water in times of drought. He also delisted the American Bald Eagle from the Endangered Species list, listed the polar bear as threatened, and, as trustee for Native American Tribes, he worked closely with Native American leaders, including addressing education initiatives for Native American children.
Following his career in public service, Governor Kempthorne served as president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) from 2010 to 2018. He was the chief representative and spokesman for the U.S. life insurance industry before Congress, the administration, in all state capitals, and in the international arena. ACLI’s approximately 290 member companies represent 95 percent of industry assets in the United States. Governor Kempthorne also served as president of the Global Federation of Insurance Associations (GFIA). GFIA represents 41 insurance trade associations from around the world on a broad range of issues affecting the international insurance industry.
Continuing his service, Governor Kempthorne serves as the chair of the USS IDAHO Commissioning Committee Advisory Board and on the Board of Directors of the Peregrine Fund. He was also part of the four person team who successfully evacuated 395 Americans and Afghan Allies that were being hunted by the Taliban after the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan.
Governor Kempthorne and his wife Patricia have two grown children, Heather and Jeff, and six grandchildren.