The last M.D. left in the Idaho Legislature will not seek re-election
State Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, was elected to his first term in the Legislature in 2006
Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
It’s a pandemic, and the Idaho Legislature is about to lose the only medical doctor left in its chambers.
Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, told the Idaho Capital Sun on Jan. 21 that he plans to retire.
Wood attended medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans and trained as a physician at major medical centers, including at a military base, before returning to Idaho in the 1970s to practice medicine in the Magic Valley.
He was elected to his first term in the Legislature in 2006.
“Sixteen years is long enough,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s time for somebody else” to take the seat.
“I’ve got things I want to do, and I’m still in good health,” he said, adding that he wants to spend some of his retirement traveling with his wife.
At the intersection of health and politics, during a politicized pandemic
Wood is chairman of the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee.
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During the pandemic, he has been one of few Republicans in the Legislature to follow public health recommendations to wear a mask. Several of his committee members also wore masks when meeting in person this month.
When the House reconvened in Boise in November to consider a slew of bills mainly related to COVID-19 testing and vaccines, Wood’s committee did not consider any of the bills.
Wood told Idaho Reports then that he “profoundly” disagreed with the nine bills that were assigned to his committee. His decision not to hold hearings on the bills kept them from moving forward.
Wood told the Sun that, so far this session, he hasn’t seen any draft legislation to address employer vaccine requirements.
Six years ago, the Legislature included two other physicians. Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, defeated John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a retired pediatrician and health insurance executive, in the 2016 election. Former senator Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, defeated Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, a family physician, in the 2016 election.
Before them, other health care providers and health care workers served in Idaho’s part-time, citizen legislature.
For example, Margaret Henbest, a pediatric nurse practitioner, was elected in 1996 to the Idaho House and served as a legislator for 12 years, changing laws to expand the profession of nurse practitioners in Idaho.
Rep. Greg Ferch, R-Boise, is a licensed chiropractor. He is in his first term representing District 21, which includes southwest Boise.
Other longtime legislators have said the 2022 session will be their last, including Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, who has served 11 terms, and Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, who has served five terms.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Clark Kauffman is serving his fifth term in the Idaho House.
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