CLARK FORK — It's not every day you get to take selfies with the governor.
But that's what many of the 115 students who attended the morning assembly at Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School Monday did when Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter made his way from Boise to pay them a visit.
Otter didn't seem to mind as he laughed and joked with a student who had trouble with his cellphone camera, while other students were a bit more serious.
"Thanks for the best speech ever," one student said as he shook Otter's hand.
Mike Turnlund, social studies instructor and experiential learning track coordinator at Clark Fork said the staff and students were "delighted" that Otter made the trip specifically to visit the rural school. The idea was mentioned in a casual conversation about a year ago, he said, between Clark Fork instructor KC MacDonald and North Idaho Federated Republican Women President Mary Jo Ambrosiani. MacDonald told her if she ever got a chance to visit the governor, to let him know Clark Fork school would like him to visit.
"And he did," Turnlund said. "This is a treasured moment for the school as a community."
Otter made his way from Boise to talk to the kids about education and government where he began with an introduction of himself, revealing the "C.L. in his name stands for Clement Leroy.
"I was born so late in the family, all the good names were gone," he said, referring to his eight siblings and garnering a chuckle from the students and staff.
Otter attended private schools in his youth and through college with one exception, so it was when he served on the education committee in the state Legislature, he said, when he became "very much aware" of the public education system in Idaho. The education system peaked his interest and started him on a trail of political involvement, Otter told the students.
One of the biggest obstacles facing Idaho is getting students to go on to trade school or college, he said. There are about 28,000 Idahoans without work today, but there are jobs available. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, he said, there are 22,500 jobs Idaho can't fill. Many of those jobs are in the medical field, Otter said, and require some sort of degree.
"When you see the velocity at which technology changes, jobs are going to be the same way," Otter said. "A good basic education, which our constitution requires every student be at least exposed to, is going to be terribly important."
When it came time for the students to ask questions, so many hands went up in the air, some of the students left disappointed because he didn't have time to answer them all. But Otter stayed to visit with the government class as well, so he was able to answer a few more questions.
Most of the questions surrounded Otter's decision to run for governor and his experiences as governor. One student asked him if he would change anything in his life if he could. The short answer was, "oh yeah." Everyone makes mistakes, he said. The best thing anyone can do is to use the opportunity to redeem themselves and be sincere.
One of the students in the government class said his mom is a teacher, and with income lower for teachers in Idaho than in other states, he asked if Otter thinks it will "get better?"
"I think it's going to get tremendously better, and competitively better," Otter said.
He put together a task force, he said, and the members came up with the career ladder, which allows the teachers to "go up in pay as they go up in profession."
Another asked Otter what advice he would give students to be successful. He listed a few things that helped him succeed, including his conscience, the Constitution and compassion. The main thing, he said, is to have a plan.
"Have a plan, work the plan," he said. "Have your own rules that fit within society and then follow those rules. Be true to yourself."
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.