CNCounty News

Friends, colleagues remember Idaho exec Dan Chadwick

Dan Chadwick conducts a National Council of County Association Executives meeting in Washington, D.C.

Key Takeaways

There are laws and there are rules, and Dan Chadwick taught Paul Beddoe one of his rules when talking about laws.

“He taught me that in lobbying, you never make a permanent friend, and you never make a permanent enemy,” Beddoe said. “You have to treat people with respect and if you just have a disagreement or a tough conversation, don’t take it personally. You can come back and work together on something with those folks on another issue.”

Chadwick gave Beddoe his start in government relations at the Idaho Association of Counties — IAC — where Chadwick served as executive director for 27 years before retiring in early 2018. Though Chadwick joked about holding a grudge against Beddoe for leaving to work for NACo, the mentorship he offered was a throughline during Chadwick’s life, which friends recalled in the days following his April 23 death after a short illness. He was 73. 

“He was generous with his time, he was generous with his resources and believed strongly in sharing what he knew, and he knew a lot,” said Linda Langston, a personal friend who served as NACo’s president from 2013-2014 while a member of the Linn County, Iowa Board of Supervisors. 

“He always wanted to help people as much as they could as they got used to the deep end of the pool that is county government,” she said. “He was an attorney, but he also knew finance programs and governance and basically knew something about every function his association represented, because it’s not just commissioners in Idaho.”

After his retirement, Chadwick operated a government consulting firm with his wife Michele, a former Gem County commissioner, and served as a contract attorney for small towns in Idaho. He also continued to serve on the Board of directors for the Wisconsin Counties Association’s for-profit organization. 

“He respected his Board of directors, and he wanted to give them the tools so they could be successful with whatever path they decided,” said Mark O’Connell, executive director of the Wisconsin Counties Association. “He never pressured them.”

Chadwick was part of a close fraternity of directors of state associations, and often eschewed hotel rooms at conferences in favor of renting a house to share with O’Connell and Bill Peterson, executive director of the Iowa State Association of Counties.

“Whether you were brand new to county government, whether you were a vendor, or whether you were the president of the United States, Dan treated everyone with respect,” O’Connell said. 

Langston noted his work building relationships with legislators and his frequent guest appearances on public affairs programming on television, which reflected how well informed he was on issues even beyond those of relevance to county government.

“He knew a lot about a lot of things, but he never lorded it over people,” she said. “He just helped people find their way.” 

Carol Moehrle concurred.

“When Dan spoke, people listened, but he wasn’t one that just needed to hear himself speak,” she said. Moehrle represented five counties as the district director for Public Health, Idaho North Central District, for more than 30 years, nearly all of Chadwick’s tenure at IAC. 

“He was one of the sharpest men I’ve ever known in a leadership spot, but he was also just genuinely funny,” she noted.

Prior to IAC, Chadwick had a career in military intelligence and served as division chief and deputy attorney general for the state of Idaho after studying political science and then law at the University of Idaho. He was a native of Emmett, in Gem County.

Through the state association, Chadwick worked to implement the current Idaho indigent program; created the justice fund and levy; restructured the juvenile corrections system; oversaw substantial public defense reform; protected counties from significant revenue losses to the personal property tax system; implemented election consolidation; promoted the formation and operation of the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council and defeated term limits on local officials.

“He was always looking to bring people into IAC and get them to understand and invest themselves in what IAC stood for,” said Bill Thompson, Latah County’s prosecuting attorney and a past IAC president. Thompson pointed to Chadwick’s work developing a relationship with the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program. “That partnership really turned into something special.” 

O’Connell called him an extremely strategic thinker. 

“Dan was always thinking two, three, four steps ahead, figuring out what a decision today meant in five or 10 years,” he said. “That certainly influenced my thinking when it comes to my organization.

“But,” O’Connell said, “he was sure that when he would give you any advice, he was sure to warn you that it might not work for your state. He was always very helpful, but that help was never directive in nature.” 

When Beddoe, who had no background in local government, applied to IAC, Chadwick insisted he interview with the entire office, a novel approach in the 1990s. 

“I will always be grateful to him for taking a chance on someone like me,” Beddoe said. 

After retirement, Chadwick traveled extensively, including with the Langston family. 

“I console myself with the fact that Dan and Michele had 11 years of married life and a few years of together before then,” Langston said. “They did a lot of really good things and created a lot of great memories.”

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