Richard Eardley, 1928-2012
Dick Eardley took an unusual path to the Mayor’s Office in Boise. Before he became Boise’s longest serving mayor, Eardley was, as he would have said, “a newsman,” who presided over the newsroom at KBOI when Walter Cronkite was the network’s gold standard, when the film was 16 mm and a “live shot” was when your opened the garage doors in the studio and wheeled a gigantic camera outside for a weather segment.
Eardley, who died earlier this week, was also a business-like, no nonsense mayor who I had the pleasure of knowing and covering from 1975 until 1985. He was just as serious about the news. A big story in those days might well have been a school board meeting or a public hearing at City Hall, the kind of news that rarely gets covered anywhere today, particularly on television. When I first began working at KBOI (then KBCI) in 1975, we had, for example, a reporter assigned to the education beat and a budget to send him to State Board of Education meetings around the state. That was a legacy of Dick Eardley’s time.
Under his watch, and with a talented City Council helping, Boise committed to neighborhood preservation, expanded the Greenbelt, built a new city hall and struggled mightily to redevelop downtown. The community’s vision was to make downtown a regional shopping destination by preventing the kind of flight to the suburbs that have damaged so many downtowns. The marketplace, through a series of master developers, never warmed to the downtown-as-shopping-center idea, which, in many ways, bedeviled Mayor Eardley. His vision was correct, in my view, the execution may have left something to be desired. But, if you like BoDo, the area south of Front in Boise, you have a sense of the kind of downtown Eardley wanted to build.
Not surprisingly, Eardley understood better than most politicians the job of the media. He was always available. I would often just show up at his office and he’d have time to talk. He was candid, even blunt, and considering all the less-than-fully-informed stories I filed from City Hall, I never remember that he complained about my inadequacy as a local political reporter. A photographer friend once captured an image of the completely at ease with himself mayor, leaning against the front of his desk and smiling. He inscribed the photo to me with a line that I loved at the time and still do. “To a newsman’s newsman,” he wrote.
Dick Eardley was a class act, a good mayor and when this once young reporter needed a role model, he provided the model. Boise is a better place for his time covering and making news.