James Holtzclaw may not be an expert marksman, but he's a pretty good shot (he likes to shoot skeet). But in the first three months of 2014, there has been much more in his crosshairs than the occasional flying disc. Instead, Holtzclaw has to take aim at a flurry of proposed bills flying in front of the five different Idaho House committees that he's assigned to.
In between meetings of the House Commerce and Human Resources, Local Government, State Affairs, Criminal Justice Reinvestment and Joint Millennium Fund committees, the 38-year-old Republican lawmaker, representing Meridian's District 20, spoke to Boise Weekly about his public and private priorities, and how he prefers not to take aim at anything that has a pulse.
I understand that you're from the deep South.
I was born and grew up in Georgia. We moved to Texas for a while, but moved back to Georgia. That's why I've got such a weird accent--a combination of Georgia and Texas.
And you spent a decade in the Air Force.
I remember one moment when I was 16; I was working a plow in a Georgia field, looked up and saw these military planes go by. Something just came over me. I still can't see the U.S. flag or talk to anyone about the military without thinking about the men and women who allowed me to become who I am.
Did the Air Force show you the world?
I was stationed in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Panama.
Did you serve in combat zones?
They paid me a few extra bucks and I got a ribbon for being in a war zone.
And did the Air Force bring you to Idaho?
I was a member of a company in Mountain Home in the late 1990s. But what kept me here was my wife, Michelle. She's from Weiser.
How long have you been married?
Thirteen years. We met at a restaurant here in Boise. We dated for a while, but I had to go to Texas for a while to be an Air Force recruiter. When I came back, I saw her again and we've been like peas and carrots ever since.
And you have a son.
A 12-year-old boy, in seventh grade.
I know that Education is one of the few House committees that you're not assigned to, but I'm presuming your son's education helps inform your decisions on public education.
It's so important, not just for my son but the whole state. Not only do I talk to my son's teachers, but I'm always talking to our district educators to see how we can do better.
Does Idaho do a good enough job to fund K-12 education?
I think most people already know that we're one of the lowest in the nation. Our kids deserve better. But I want you to know that I don't think more money always equals a better education. That said, I think we ought to be paying our teachers fairly.
Was there a particular event or series of events that led you into politics?
Some folks run because they're mad about something. That's not me. I thought I could make Idaho a better place. Deep down, I'm a server, working for constituents. I'm not here just for me, and certainly not for the money.
A lot of young professionals struggle with holding a seat in the Legislature because of the full-time requirements but part-time pay.
We have some more 30-somethings with the new class. I think you'll find a lot of them are self-sufficient or own their own businesses.
So, how do you pay the bills?
I'm a real estate broker and I own a property management company. But I have to delegate my time. I told my wife and son before I ran for office that what I was going to do is important, but that doesn't mean that I ever put them in the background.
You appear to be in very good shape. How do you like to recreate?
I like to play golf, but I'm not any good. I like to shoot skeet. But I don't hunt. Look, I'm a meat-eater and when I was a kid I used to hunt, but it's been forever since I've been able to shoot an animal. I just don't want to do it.
And do you play sports with your son?
Always. I played football when I was his age. Plus basketball, "wrastling" and soccer.
Pardon me, but you just said "wrastle."
I've been here 20 years. I can't hide my accent for more than five minutes. When my accent comes out and people ask me where I'm from, I joke that I'm from the South... of Idaho.