Back to former Idaho governors
Dirk Kempthorne

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne

  • January 8, 1999 - May 26, 2006
  • Republican
  • October 29, 1951
  • California
  • University of Idaho
  • Married Patricia J. Kempthorne; two children
  • Resigned, NGA Chair
  • Senator, Cabinet secretary


DIRK KEMPTHORNE was born in San Diego and attended the University of Idaho. Kempthorne served seven years as the mayor of Boise. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 1992. His first bill to end unfunded federal mandates on state and local governments became Senate Bill 1 in the 104th Congress. He also authored the new Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996.

Kempthorne was elected governor of Idaho in 1998 and reelected in 2002. He championed mandatory sentences for methamphetamine manufacturing. He initiated a program to enhance Idaho’s highways by improving safety and expanding intra-state commerce. He worked with neighboring states to develop a state-based solution for returning salmon runs in the region. Following the wildfires of 2000, he worked to change the approach to forest health and wildfire management. Under his leadership, Idaho developed wolf and grizzly bear management plans aimed at delisting the endangered species and protecting states’ rights. He established a statewide voluntary immunization registry to ensure Idaho children receive pediatrician-recommended vaccinations, and signed into law an initiative for Idaho children to read at grade level by the third grade.

During Kempthorne’s tenure, Idaho instituted the first-ever tax credit for companies that expand high-speed voice and data broadband communications lines, and provided funding for 12 regional economic development experts across the state. Kempthorne’s economic development efforts included fostering rural economic development; intensifying overseas marketing of Idaho products; securing a tax credit for new and expanding businesses in Idaho; and improving integration of the state’s scientific, educational, and business communities. Kempthorne also was responsible for seeing Idaho through its worst recession since the Great Depression.

Kempthorne earned the Distinguished Service Medal, the top civilian honor from the Idaho National Guard. Kempthorne is a past chairman of the National Governors Association as well as lead governor on National Guard issues. He is past chair of the Western Governors’ Association and past president of the Council of State Governments, and chaired the Public Policy Committee of the Republican Governors Association. Kempthorne stepped down as governor of Idaho on May 26, 2006 when he was officially sworn in as U.S. secretary of the interior.


Archived Wepage: Gov. Kempthorne’s 2003-04 Chairman’s Initiative

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Idaho State Historical Society Gubernatorial Manuscript and Archive Collections:

  • Idaho inauguration, 1999. MS2/1382.
  • Governor Dirk Kempthorne papers. AR2/30.

Recent Idaho Governors