COEUR d'ALENE - Steve Adams looks you in the eye when you're speaking, smiles often - even if you're disagreeing - and never seems to raise his voice.
He's even apologetic when the phone rings inside the Allstate insurance agency he bought from his father in 2000.
His dad, who taught Adams the insurance trade, and mother still live in the Pine Avenue home at the foot of Tubbs Hill where Adams and his three brothers were raised.
"A block from the water," Adams says.
Adams has an unshakable list of priorities, and near the top is Coeur d'Alene, a city he says he loves above most everything else. He moved away once, as a college student, and didn't like it.
The phone rings and Adams smiles.
"Sorry," he says, and answers it.
He talks about premiums, coverage and rates, then the conversation turns to his new job as city councilman, the one he will take over Jan. 3.
"It's part time," he says into the receiver. "Nope, I'm not going anywhere, it's just part time."
When he hangs up, he smiles.
"She didn't even vote," he says. (He encouraged her to do so in future elections.)
Adams will be one of two new guys on the Coeur d'Alene City Council.
First and foremost, he is a devout Christian and family man. That's at the top of his list. But unlike the other first-time council elect, Dan Gookin, Adams hasn't been active politically for nearly a decade, so that familiarity isn't there.
"If I don't reduce the size of government at the end of my four years, I'll have considered myself a failure," he says. "I'm not looking to get my name on a plaque or have some legacy on a great project."
For as polite as Adams is, he packs a punch. On the campaign trail, he regularly criticized the current administration. And his guiding principles can seem enigmatic, viewed from afar.
He's a family man whose top priority on the council may be cutting city jobs, or putting other families out of work. He's a self described "constitutional conservative" who didn't become politically active in nonpartisan local races until Democratic President Barack Obama gained national prominence. He loves Coeur d'Alene, but said on the campaign trail he couldn't name a single great accomplishment the city has achieved. He will bring his Christian values to governing despite the separation of church and state.
But Adams didn't gain his seat by accident. He claimed 56 percent of the vote in a three-way race, on the stances he took along the way.
"Our representative republic is based on Biblical principles. I can't leave it out," he says. "They're interwoven."
He won't preach from his seat, he says, and he won't make decisions based on another's faith.
Adams turned his life to God in the spring of 2001. He was in a rut, having marital issues, when he noticed he was surrounded by Christian neighbors who opened his eyes. When he thought of running for council, he prayed about it. His prayer was answered, he says.
"Here I was being an armchair quarterback, so to speak, as far as my civic duty," he says. "If I'm just complaining, I'm being lazy."
Adams is the father of three boys and has been married 20 years to wife Candace. He hunts, likes Hudson burgers, mountain bikes and completed a triathlon despite never learning to swim until he started training for the race.
He wants to serve two terms max, "and maybe two as mayor," he says.
Hanging on a wall inside Adams' office is a framed picture of his son, Chuck, pitching at Canfield Sports Complex. He was named after Adams' older brother who died in motorcycle accident when the council-elect was a schoolboy.
"It's just business as usual around here. We're just simple people," Candace says, asked in a later phone interview if the family will change with the new job. She's tightening the house budget, buying bulk, and making what she can, like bread, from scratch. "We don't know where we're going to be in three months. We're just like everyone else in this town."
That tight fiscal line is what Adams pledged to bring to City Hall.
His strongest stance on the campaign trail, besides perhaps the public advisory vote on McEuen Field, was his claim that City Hall could have around 100 jobs too many. That's nearly one-third of the entire workforce. And he later said on the campaign trail that the city had done good things, like recruit Ford Ironman Coeur d'Alene to town.
But how would it feel, as a family man, being the driving force of lost jobs, should he follow through?
"I certainly wouldn't take any pleasure in it," he says. "It would grieve me."
But it's why he was elected, he says, and he believes less government spending in wages will cut taxes eventually, which in turn will recruit business so the private sector would be able to absorb those jobs.
"You're going to be on the short side of the stick on one of the sides," he says.
"They're not going to be the first person to be laid off in history," he says.
If his stances cause a rift on the council, there won't be "any knock down drag out" fights, he adds. He smiles at his desk.
He says he's nervous, anxious for the new job, but "you have to start somewhere."