Longtime community leader and entrepreneur, Jack Buell, has retired from politics after more than 46 years of serving Benewah County.
Mr. Buell was honored Friday, January 8, and at his retirement reception was awarded the Idaho Distinguished Service Medal by the Idaho Office of Emergency Management.
According to Brad Richy, Director of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management, Mr. Buell was given the award for demonstrating exceptional and inspirational service to Benewah County and the state of Idaho.
Mr. Buell joins a list of other public servants who have received the honor, including former Governor Butch Otter.
Mr. Buell has received a number of awards and recognition at the state level over his years in office. In 2012 he received the Spirit of Idaho award and was also inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame.
Mr. Buell served at his final county commissioners meeting on December 30, where he said that he and his fellow commissioners got teary-eyed over his retirement.
“I cried a little bit, both commissioners teared up,” Mr. Buell said. “That was very sentimental to me but you really get into a relationship when you work with them (commissioners) for so long.”
Mr. Buell said that he started work in the county even before 1974, saying that he took the job from his uncle George Moody, who was diagnosed with cancer in the early 70s.
“My uncle was dying of cancer and what got me involved was a lot of people were trying to get his job,” Mr. Buell said. “I told him I’d take his job and when he gets better he can have it back.”
Mr. Buell was in his 40s then and had a lot of responsibilities on his plate as his trucking company was starting to take off. He said that he didn’t have the time but did it anyways.
“I was busy, I was still running, was still driving,” Mr. Buell said. “I didn’t have time to do the job.”
He said that there was a handful of hardships over his years overseeing the county but he also noted that there were some triumphs as well.
“The floods were our hardest, I’ll never forget,” Mr. Buell. “The money was cut off on the dump trucks and our (Jack Buell Trucking) trucks stayed out there, they were tough days.”
He noted that one of the best things he did was help to buy the Federal Building which the county was able to update and repair and the building served as a way to expand and have more space for programs.
In his time as commissioner, Mr. Buell worked under eight different Idaho Governors. He said that he formed good relationships with all of the governors he worked with but he was especially close with Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt.
“I would say there was two I was close to, I was close to Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt,” Mr. Buell said. “I never had one I disliked.”
“Phil Batt would call me out of the blue and ask what’s going on, he would take my advice,” Mr. Buell continued. “We got to be good friends over many things.”
Mr. Buell’s career has not only impacted Benewah County but also the state of Idaho.
During his career, Mr Buell also helped to found the Idaho Counties Risk Management (ICRMP) in 1985. The company was founded to seek a stable and local source for property, casualty insurance and risk management services in Idaho.
Mr. Buell served as vice chairman of the ICRMP board and said that the board was one of the best he ever worked with.
“I’ve never seen more respect in a board than in ICRMP,” Mr. Buell said. “The board members would always let each person have their turn to talk and they were respectable.”
Mr. Buell also served on the Coeur d’Alene Basin board who worked with the EPA and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe on cleanup efforts in the region due to historic mining operations.
Mr. Buell said that he plans to find ways to spend his time outside of politics. He said that he plans to possibly travel or build a shop on his property to house his Corvette collection.
“It’s going to be hard not to be involved,” Mr. Buell said.