New Thinkin' 

BW got a visit last week from Western Progress, a new policy institute promising to promote distinctively Western issues with national decision makers.

The group is an offshoot of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning Washington D.C.-based think tank.

And while officials promise us they will soon be obtaining their own nonprofit status, many of the group's staff and board of directors are notable Democratic supporters in the West.

Among them is Executive Director Alan Stephens, who personally stopped by our humble offices. In his last job, Stephens served as co-chief of staff for Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano.

Stephens isn't the only staff member with political experience. Regional Director Pat Williams represented Montana in Congress from 1979 to 1997.

There are even a couple of journalists signing on to work with the group. Notably, Senior Fellow Tom Kenworthy, whose career includes stints with both The Washington Post and USA Today covering the West. Also joining the team is Steve Woodruff, a 30-year newspaper veteran, 20 of those as the editorial page editor with the Missoulian in Montana. Woodruff has taken the post of regional director.

The board of directors has its own notable members, including Edward Romero, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Spain in 1998 and was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Helsinki Accords.

With those personalities now on board, the group promises to champion issues including water, growth, sprawl, energy, health care and tax equity in its effort to counterbalance the influence of far-right-leaning groups.

Stephens and his associate, Policy Director Enrique Lopezlira, were in Boise last week making the rounds among leading conservation groups and, of course, the media. They promised a quick return to the area, especially since they were unable to secure a meeting with one of their top targets, Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch.

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