Idaho Transportation

Public Affairs Office
P.O. Box 7129
Boise, ID 83707
Fax: 208.334.8563


After 11 years as chair

of the

Transportation Board,

Chuck Winder

embarks on a

different journey


Transportation has led Chuck Winder down many paths since it became a passion during his days at the College of Idaho four decades ago. The course changed again in June when Gov. Jim Risch, completing the unexpired term of Dirk Kempthorne, chose a new chairman for the Idaho Transportation Board.

It was an abrupt, although not completely surprising, change for the board chairman who was first appointed by Gov. Phil Batt in 1995 and reappointed twice by Kempthorne. His service of 11 years, in two gubernatorial administrations, stretched longer than any of his predecessors.

That longevity speaks well of Winder’s commitment to the department and his enduring interest in transportation.

A student of politics, history, law and business, Winder accepted the change philosophically.

“The board is still the board, which is one of the advantages of the system.
We still have the same knowledge base and they (board members) will carry on the things they’re asked to do.

“The chairman serves at the pleasure of the governor, and when a new governor takes office, it’s always possible that he will appoint new leaders… I have provided, and will still provide, whatever help I can in the transition,” Winder said. “I told Frank (Bruneel, the new board chair) that it’s a huge job with a long learning curve. It’s a very complex business…”

And a very time-consuming one.

His position as head of The Winder Company, which specializes in real estate investments, provided unique scheduling flexibility. He had the freedom to devote as much time and energy to the role of chairman as it demanded, which turned out to be considerable.

'Culturally, a road system, whether it’s interstate highways or rural roads, link communities and allow them to prosper. And the better the roads you have, the more lives you’re going to save.'

Transportation board meetings throughout the state, engagements at public forums, meetings with constituents and impromptu media interviews frequently led him away from his business.

In fact, he was absent from the office so frequently as board chair that son David, who handles daily operations of The Winder Company, suggests that he’s already retired.

Winder, 60, attributes much of his interest in transportation issues to Gen. Tom Sawyer, who retired from the Army transportation corps to become an instructor at College of Idaho (now Albertson College of Idaho) in the 1960s.

“He introduced me to the political and economic implications of a strong transportation system. Germany, for example, was unable to compete in the world market because it lacked an efficient transportation system. Transportation and the economy are closely linked.

“One of the major priorities that I had, and that the board shared, was improving the state’s transportation system, particularly U.S. 95. It is a real detriment to economics if you don’t have a strong supporting infrastructure.

“Culturally, a road system, whether it’s interstate highways or rural roads, link communities and allow them to prosper. And the better the roads you have, the more lives you’re going to save.”

That premise is evident in most of the board’s decisions to improve Idaho’s transportation system – governed by safety and a sensitivity to business/commerce.

Winder graduated from the College of Idaho with a degree in political science and pre-law. In the waning days of the Vietnam War, he enlisted in the Navy and spent four years of active duty as a pilot and flight instructor in Florida and Texas.

After leaving the Navy, Winder worked on development of the Karcher Mall in Nampa and spent 6 1⁄2 years with Morrison-Knudsen. He founded The Winder Co. in 1979.

Service on the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission, the city’s design review board and Ada County Highway District’s governing commission prepared him well for the challenges he eventually assumed as chairman of the transportation board. Among his responsibilities as board chair was participation in a regional Transit Forum intended to identify funding and service options for public transportation in the Treasure Valley.

'.The department has to keep presenting the message that demands are great and funding is still not adequate to meet those demands..'

The transition from board chairman to Transit Forum spokesperson was almost immediate. A week after he left the transportation board Winder was publicly explaining the need for a local option tax to augment public transportation funding in Ada and Canyon counties.

Winder was co-chairman of the Transit Forum, along with Dan Stephens, CEO of Home Federal Savings & Loan and Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas. The group hopes to forward a bill to the 2007 Legislature authorizing a citizen vote on a local option tax.

Serving as chairman of the transportation board the past 11 years provided a Winder scrapbook of memories and accomplishments that also will have long-term effects on the state’s transportation system. Among them are:

  • Increasing transportation resources through a four-cent increase in the state fuel tax in 1996
  • Creating the Forum on Transportation Investment that identifies funding options to meet the surface infrastructure demands of the next 20 years
  • Establishing strong working relationships with legislators and elected officials in cities, counties and highway districts
  • Improving the transportation department’s environmental stewardship throughout the state
  • Improving internal efficiencies within the transportation department
  • Securing significant salary increases for ITD employees
  • Improving safety and driving conditions on key Idaho highways such as U.S. 95 and U.S. 30 and the interstate system
  • Serving with J.D. Williams as co-chairs of Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on state government efficiency
  • Representing Idaho in $100 million of construction projects at most of the state’s colleges and universities (Coeur d’Alene, Moscow, Lewiston, Boise, Twin Falls, and Pocatello), all of which have been completed and are open today

“I realize there’s much to be done – there always will be. There will always be challenges to meet the growing demands… The department has to keep presenting the message that demands are great and funding is still not adequate to meet those demands.”

He said the Connecting Idaho program, funded by bonds that leverage future federal funds, is at a critical stage and needs to be an important part of ongoing discussions with the Legislature. And recommendations of the Forum on Transportation Investment must be considered in long-term planning and policymaking.

Winder admits he will miss the regular interaction with other board members – who have become like family – and with ITD employees and staff. But the administrative change will enable him to refocus on business operations.

“It will allow me the time to be more active in my business… to establish new business relationships and strengthen old ones.”

Appreciation events are being organized to bid Winder farewell this fall. Although no dates have been selected, plans are to have an afternoon open house in the auditorium at Headquarters for ITD employees. Additionally, a dinner, open to the public - including ITD employees - also is being discussed. Information will be relayed as soon as arrangements are completed.

Published 7-14-06