LAVA HOT SPRINGS — For six weeks during his senior year of high school, Kevin Andrus did his coursework on nights and weekends and spent his days running errands for state lawmakers.
Based on his exposure to Idaho politics as a page, assigned to assist the House State Affairs Committee, Kevin Andrus vowed he would one day become a lawmaker, following in the footsteps of his father, former Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs.
Kevin Andrus, a local rancher, earned his opportunity to serve much sooner than he expected. At age 30, he's been told he'll be Idaho's youngest state representative when the new session starts.
He'll be a member of that same State Affairs Committee he once served as a page — back when his duties in the Capitol building included setting up for meetings, delivering notes and fetching subject-matter experts at the behest of politicians.
"I was so impressed with how well people worked together despite their differences," Kevin Andrus recalled of his time as a page. "It was a really exciting and encouraging part of politics."
During his freshman year in the Legislature, he'll also serve on the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, which his father once chaired, and on the House Business Committee.
And he decided to run for office just an hour and a half before the filing deadline. Some state lawmakers and political leaders called him at the last moment to assure him he was capable of doing the job, and that his district demanded a representative with an agricultural background.
To run, he had to quit working as a loan officer with Ireland Bank in Malad, according to bank policy.
Ken Andrus admits he was surprised by his son's decision to run, but he liked the timing and circumstances. The previous lawmaker from the District 28 seat, Kelley Packer, wasn't seeking re-election, opting instead to run for lieutenant governor.
"If he was going to run, it was time to do it," Ken Andrus said.
During his spur-of-the-moment campaign in the Republican primary, he ran against Dennis Spencer, Kay Jenkins and Gary Aldous.
His father helped with consulting, his sister and brother-in-law pitched in with marketing and his neighbor helped him create campaign literature and aided with mailing.
"It was really stressful," Kevin Andrus said. "I went from not thinking I was going to be doing it to jumping in and getting a campaign ready."
He was uncontested in the general election. He plans to focus on learning the ropes of the office in his first session.
"I want to be known as a conservative who wants limited government and truly respects and votes for the Constitution," Kevin Andrus said.
Nowadays, he helps his father and his uncle, Jim Andrus, run the family's ranch, which includes 250 head of mother cows. Kevin Andrus oversees training and selling horses for use in other working ranches — a skill he learned while working at a family friend's ranch in Nevada one summer.
From a scheduling perspective, the slow time of year on the ranch coincides with the start of the session.
Kevin Andrus believes he has a good role model in his father to guide how he'll carry himself in office. He said his father never took it personally when people disagreed with him and remained as cordial with his political opponents as with his closest allies.
Ken Andrus, a member of the Legislature from 2005 through 2017, also had a reputation for standing by his convictions. Ken Andrus recalled he initially faced stiff opposition from his usual allies within the state's cattle and dairy industries when he introduced legislation establishing felony penalties for animal cruelty. It took Andrus four years to ultimately convince his friends in agriculture that the bill wouldn't affect farm animals, which enabled him to get the legislation passed.
Prior to the November election, Ken Andrus decided to lead the opposition against a ballot initiative seeking to legalize gambling using "casino-style" machines pooling wagers on historic horse races. Voters ultimately rejected the initiative.
"Through his relationships built as a representative, he was able to make a stand that really helped out Idaho when it didn't seem like anybody else in Idaho was capable and willing to do so," Kevin Andrus said.
Ken Andrus has encouraged his son to form his own opinions on issues, though he acknowledges they both have similar world views. He's been happy to offer his son general background, however.
Ken Andrus and his wife, Colleen, left in November for Kalkaska, Michigan, where they're serving a two-year mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They're assigned to support new church leaders and to visit church members who have become less active in the church to get them more involved.