Dick Edinger's final year as East Side Highway District commissioner has been a long one.
There was the bitter outcry against the commissioners for pursuing local improvement districts as funding mechanisms, the LIDs eventually shot down by the Kootenai County commissioners.
The highway district has also struggled with a shrinking budget. And now a Coeur d'Alene property owner is threatening to sue the district over a fence dispute.
Being a public servant has its tough days.
"Up until the last 9, 10 months, there's been a good rapport with a lot of the people in the highway district," Edinger said.
But he is walking away with no regrets, he added.
Since he was first appointed commissioner for a term in 1972 and then elected in the mid '90s, he and the other commissioners have based their decisions on state law, he said, and what is best for the roads bridging people's lives.
"I look back over the 35 years I've been commissioner, I see the improvements I've been a part of with the other commissioners, and I feel real good about that," Edinger said. "We did what we could do, and we tried to do everything right."
Still, retirement has to be looking pretty good right now.
The Coeur d'Alene man decided against running again, he said, because this year held a lot of benchmarks - 50 years of marriage to his ever-supportive Jeannie, a 75th birthday in May - which nudged him to push on the brakes a little.
"It's just time," he said.
He can tally up successes he and the other commissioners achieved; the several-year endeavor of straightening and rebuilding Fernan Lake Road, as well as obtaining a federal grant that almost entirely funded the three recent overlay projects on O'Gara, Burma and Sunnyside roads.
He has remained in office all these years, he said, because the public service grew on him.
"I guess you get it in your blood," said Edinger, who has also served on the Idaho Association of Highway Districts and the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council. "If you enjoy your work and think you're doing a good job, that's really the basis."
The biggest changes Edinger has seen are budgetary, he added.
He was part of a decision in the '70s to dramatically reduce the district's levy rate, not knowing the legislature would put a 3 percent cap on tax hikes soon after.
The district has been playing catch-up ever since, he said, while state and federal dollars have also dwindled.
"The biggest challenge the incoming commissioners are going to face are dollars, and continued maintenance on our roads," he said. "The basics. Period."
Road Supervisor Jon Pankratz noted that Edinger has helped the district accomplish about $30 million worth of transportation projects through federal grants.
The incoming commissioners will have big shoes to fill, Pankratz added.
"Dick has dedicated most of his life to this highway district," he said. "He has a great concern for the roads that people travel on, and the employees that work here."
Fellow commissioner Jimmie Dorsey said Edinger can name off the past and current residents of every district road, as well as past projects done there.
"He knows more people in Kootenai County than is imaginable," Dorsey said. "It's really been an asset to the highway district to have somebody with his knowledge, experience and background."
Dorsey, himself wrapping up 8 years in office after being defeated in the May elections, believes he and Edinger have made sound choices for the district.
He is personally looking forward to having time for his friends, family and fishing boat.
"I will miss the district," Dorsey said. "I feel we've had a good crew, if not a better crew than I've experienced anywhere else."
Edinger said he looks forward to working on his yard and spending time with his wife, two grown daughters and his grandchildren.
His seat will be filled by Chris Fillios, and Dorsey's by Mark Addington. Both will take office on Oct. 1.
Edinger's advice to the incoming commissioners is simple but significant: Always aim for the best decision.
"Make that decision with everyone in mind, all your constituents out there. Don't worry about getting re-elected," he said. "It's tough. Very tough. And you won't always be right, either."