Right about this time three years ago, Andrea Shipley was settling in as the new executive director of Snake River Alliance. She's since become one of the most visible activists in the state and recently became executive director of the Idaho Community Action Network.
Where did you grow up?
The small town of Worland, Wyo., nestled in the Bighorn Mountains. My father is the plant foreman for Devon Energy's natural gas facility in Worland.
Did that inform you as a young girl?
Definitely. I kind of sprung out of the oil fields of Wyoming.
Did you see the oil field and gas field culture through your father's eyes?
My dad worked really, really hard to get where he is. In much of rural America, there aren't a lot of good-paying jobs to raise a family on. Which is why I thought my position with the Snake River Alliance was so unique. It's not about targeting people who need work but it is about how do we make work safe for employees and good for the state.
Putting the Idaho National Laboratory aside, is it fair to say that Idaho is entering into a new commercial nuclear age?
We have Areva, the French-owned nuclear giant, on its way to building a
reactor [uranium enrichment factory] in Eastern Idaho. Areva touts the benefit of nuclear energy without talking about its legacy of waste.
But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's hearings were packed with officials from Eastern Idaho pleading for approval because of a perceived economic benefit.
We recognize that Idaho needs jobs. Areva says it's bringing 250 jobs to Eastern Idaho. But big-box stores or call centers have provided far more jobs and haven't left a toxic legacy.
Meanwhile, in Western Idaho, Alternate Energy Holdings' plan to build a nuclear reactor has been met with open arms by officials in Payette County.
The people in Payette believe economic development can be built around energy, so when AEHI stepped into the picture, they were ready. I think they're making a huge mistake for even humoring a company that is so unreasonable.
Give us a sense of how you viewed the recent political season and its eventual outcome.
We saw a very radicalized Tea Party come to life nationally. There are a lot of people out there who say Obama hasn't done enough.
But a fair amount of those same people voted for Obama.
Well, that's right. I can't blame them for wanting more change faster. But by electing a lot of Tea Party candidates, voters aren't going to get a more civil tone.
Did you have any particular reaction to the tack that Congressman Minnick's campaign took regarding immigration?
Look, he stood on the right side of history when he voted on hate-crime legislation. He stood his ground on how he saw financial reform. But during the campaign, the ads he ran were, at best, racist. He lost votes from his base, and if he gained votes, it was a wash.
The rap on ICAN from conservatives is that you are anti-business.
We are absolutely not. The population we work with are the very ones that need jobs. ICAN is pro-business. The push-back that we're feeling is about the resources needed for businesses to run in a fair way: good health care, sustainable jobs and fair wages. All of those things require money. And that, in turn, somehow comes across as anti-business.
Being an activist in Idaho puts you in a small group. Being a woman puts you in an even smaller group. Can you talk about being marginalized?
I don't want to burn any bridges.
Have you been marginalized by the media?
Have you been marginalized by other non-profits or NGOs?
Does that make you stronger or better at what you do?
If you were to counsel the Snake River Alliance in how they choose your successor, what would you say?
Look for someone who's incredibly nimble, has a good sense of humor, who can fundraise like crazy and bring unique people together in meaningful ways, whether or not they agree.