COEUR d'ALENE - Janet Callen, a Coeur d'Alene Democrat, is making her first run at elected office as a candidate for the Idaho House.
Callen is seeking representative position A, in District 4.
Callen, who has been living in Coeur d'Alene for 19 years, is a retired certified public accountant. She spent her CPA career working in Lewiston and Coeur d'Alene.
Callen isn't new to politics.
She worked as a campaign volunteer for North Idaho politicians George Sayler, Dan English, and former Idaho House candidate Mike Bullard. Sayler currently is her campaign adviser, she said.
Callen, who declined to provide her age, is the mother of three grown children. In her free time she is an active member of the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society, works in her garden at home, and travels.
She started paying closer attention to the state Legislature after reading about Idaho's forced ultrasound bill. It was later killed.
Senate Bill 1387 would have required Idaho women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound first. In some instances, early on in a pregnancy, an invasive trans-vaginal procedure would have been needed to get the information required in the bill.
"That alarmed me to where this Legislature was going," Callen said. "It's very scary."
She said that was the "immediate personal trigger" that led her to begin considering a run for office.
She also has been following Idaho schools Superintendent Tom Luna and the Legislature's work on education reform.
"I believe our taxpayer dollars will do more to create local jobs by paying our teachers well, rather than spending $60 million on Chinese built (laptop) computers and out-of-state (online) education companies," she said. "None of those computers are going to create jobs here."
Teachers would return most of their income back into the community in which they teach, she said.
"Common sense tells us that if the consumers have no money, businesses won't have customers," Callen said. "That is Henry Ford's principle of paying his employees well so they could buy his cars."
Instead of tax cuts for Idaho's wealthiest, she said tax dollars should pay for infrastructure projects in state. That would create jobs, and improve the state's infrastructure, which she said has been earning near-failing grades from Idaho engineers.
"I think they're approaching job creation backwards," she said.
Callen was a small business owner before becoming a CPA. She owned an H&R Block franchise in Grangeville and managed one in Kellogg.
She said her business and finance background would be valuable experience if she's elected.
"I understand budgets, tax laws, and I raised a family on minimal income," she said.
She said the Legislature would benefit from the balance of having more Democrats in office.
"There doesn't seem, to me, that a lot of us are being represented there in Boise," she said. "Democracy needs more than one voice."
Additionally, she said, "After at least 40 years of Republican dominance, we have a state which ranks near the bottom of all the states in almost every survey of basic services."
To illustrate her point, she said Idaho ranks high in prisoner incarcerations compared with other states, and low in education spending.
"Per capita we spend $22,419 to keep a prisoner in jail, but only $6,469 to educate one child," she said. "Obviously, this state needs legislators with new ideas."
Additionally, having more political balance could increase transparency and help maintain ethics standards in Boise, she said.
"There's a lot of work to be done down there," she said.