Kramer Bids Farewell to Twin Falls County Commission
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) –Terry Kramer sat behind his desk talking about the 12 years he has served as a county commissioner. It was Thursday, a day before he’d depart the County West Building for the last time as an elected official.
He planned to leave at noon on Friday and by 3 p.m. get on a plane with his wife for a trip to California. He said he didn’t want to be in town when the new commissioner, Brent Reinke, is sworn into office on Monday.
Kramer doesn’t harbor any harsh feelings about the man who beat him in November’s general election, he said. He just wants to focus on the next chapter of his life without being faced with Monday morning blues of not going to work. He’d rather be out of town, seeing new sights and doing something fun rather than at home reminiscing about how things turned out in the last election.
“Brent Reinke is as good of a man as could have been chosen,” Kramer said of his replacement. “I just wish he hadn’t beat me.”
Kramer’s office on Thursday resembled that of a new employee’s, someone who hasn’t gotten settled into the position yet and personalized the surroundings. Or, in Kramer’s case, it looked like the office of an outgoing commissioner.
Where once the walls were adorned with photos of Balanced Rock in his home community of Castleford and of area hunting trips, now they were bare. The fur-lined sofa that sat on one wall also was gone; and his desk, which once displayed big-game hunting knives, now had just the bare essentials of office supplies.
There also was something different about the man who held a seat on the county commission for more than a decade.
“It’s tough,” he said with some emotion. “I really loved this job.”
It wasn’t always an easy job, but it was rewarding. Mostly it was the people who made it so – the office staff and other county personnel, the other commissioners, and county residents he had the chance to meet and work with over the years. The opportunity to make decisions that had a long-term impact on the community also was rewarding.
Kramer doesn’t consider himself a patient man by nature, but there’s another trait that has served him well as commissioner.
“I am persistent,” he said.
He said it can be extremely frustrating to get things done because as an elected official there are a lot of hoops to jump through in trying to make change, a lot of legalities, state codes, etc. That’s the case whether it’s repairing roads or painting an office wall.
He said at any one time there might be 25 different items that commissioners are working and waiting on, but the process to get projects completed sometimes takes months. In the meantime, there are more issues being piled on their agenda.
“It takes a lot of time even for the small things,” he said. “I wasn’t always patient, but I was persistent. I was persistent and I knew the system, how things worked.”
Kramer knows Reinke will have to find his own way as commissioner, noting it takes any newcomer time to come to know the system and how things work, and he wishes him well in the journey. He does, however, offer a few tips of advice:
“You need to understand what’s going on currently. You need to talk to the people,” he said. “And you need to appreciate your staff and treat them right.”
Those who’ve worked closely with Kramer said he did all those things, and in the process made the work environment a pleasant and inviting one where they felt important.
On Wednesday, his office threw a retirement party for him. Many people in the community came to wish him well. Pictures were displayed, many of them humorous, such as the photo that depicted Kramer lying underneath a table at a meeting (he said the meeting was dragging on too long and needed to take a nap), and another one of him dressed in a St. Patrick’s Day hat and an orange Halloween shirt with a jack-o’-lantern’s face.
Cassie Plaza, administrative assistant who’s worked in the commission office for the past year, said during the open house that she remembers Kramer calling her during her first day at the office. He was on vacation in Hawaii, but still took the time to check in on her to see how she was adjusting.
“He really cares about us, always making sure everyone is doing OK,” she said, noting it’s a trait that not all supervisors she’s worked with in the past have demonstrated. “It’s nice to work for someone like that.”
“He always has a real positive attitude,” said Office Administrator Shannon Carter. “He is always so happy and enjoys the work. He’s always smiling.”
And, of course, there were the pranks such as piling sandbags in the office of Jackie Frey, coordinator for the county’s Office of Emergency Management; and the thoughtful times he’d bring Pringles around to the various offices, calling Friday “Pringles Day.”
County Commissioner Don Hall, who’s worked alongside Kramer for the past two years and has gone on hunting trips with the outgoing commissioner, said they didn’t always agree on every issue but they always got along well.
Commissioner Jack Johnson said Kramer was a good mentor and even hosted training when he and Hall first took office.
“He has been a really good mentor for the past two years,” Johnson said. “I think it would be easy for an elected official to just say figure it out for yourself, but he didn’t. … We’re going to miss him, but hopefully he’ll find a new passion to occupy his time.”
Kramer said he takes leave knowing the county is in good shape – and in good hands moving forward. He also said he can exit his post without disappointment.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “I have done pretty much everything that I have set out to do.”
He will miss the people, miss being a part of making change for the county, but he’s excited about getting back to farming at his Castleford ranch and spending more time in the outdoors. He also plans to devote more time to emergency services, something he’s been involved with for years.
At the going away party on Wednesday, a photo board depicted Kramer in mock-up outdoor adventures, such as BASE jumping, rock climbing and climbing Mt. Borah. They were humorous suggestions by staff to keep him busy in his free time.
Kramer said he won’t do any of the adventures mentioned above, but he will do the other ones depicted on the photo board: fish trapping, deep-sea diving and, of course, hunting.
He said this is the end of the line for him in politics, though he might visit an occasional county commission meeting in the future, but it won’t be anytime soon. He’ll step back and let the commission roll forward without him – though Johnson said Kramer, because of his institutional knowledge, did tell him he’d allow any of the commissioners to call him for advice if they need background on an issue.
Both Johnson and Hall said they feel confident that the county is on the right track and in good shape as Kramer leaves office.
“He is leaving the place better than he found it,” Hall said.
As the clock in a corner of his office ticked the afternoon away, Kramer said of his departure: “It’s difficult for me to leave. I truly enjoyed this job. I have always said that I’ve had more fun than what a person should be allowed.” And in the process, “We have accomplished a lot of good things.”