Boise--A touching noon-hour rotunda ceremony honored two of the longest-serving chairmen of the Idaho Legislatures powerful Joint-Finance Appropriation Committee.
Representative Maxine Bell and Senator Shawn Keough are the most senior members of the Idaho Legislative body and both will retire after decades of service on the Finance committee.
"It's sad to see them go, but a tribute to Idaho for sending such high-quality people to the Legislature. We can't find higher quality individuals in all Idaho. They're among the best to ever walk these halls. I was privileged to serve on JFAC with both of them, and count them as my best friends in the legislature," said Speaker of the House Scott Bedke.
Representative Bell was first elected to the Idaho House in 1988. The former school librarian was a graduate of Idaho State and got her political start with Idaho Farm Bureau.
"I came up in my mid 50's, prior to that we were active in County Farm Bureau, then active in the State, and then the American Farm Bureau level. The whole thing with Farm Bureau was to teach us the issues and find solutions. We learned how to talk to people and it served us well," said Bell.
Senator Keough out of Sandpoint is the longest-serving female senator in the history of the state. When she completes her 11th term in November of 2018, she’ll have served 22 years in the Idaho Senate.
“I’ve been proud of working with fellow area legislators over the years to get road projects built and others moved forward, secure additional funding for our schools, extend high-speed internet into our high schools, provide increased opportunities for higher education right here at home, and many other items that have made our government run better and assisted our citizens to have opportunities to prosper,” Keough said. “I sincerely thank the people of Legislative District 1 for the opportunity to be a public servant,” said Keough
Speaker Bedke says the JFAC Co-Chairs made his job easier.
"I never had to worry about JFAC since I've been Speaker. We met often, we were always on the same page early and they were loyal and supportive, never pushovers they defended their opinions. We had a meeting of minds, they got it done and done well and we will miss them," said Bedke.
Both chairmen were presented with gavels and will return to their home districts and lives.
"They made it happen, it's not going be easy to replace them," sighed Speaker Bedke.