Few offices in state government have not felt his influence the past three decades.
The State Board of Education. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The Division of Financial Management (three times). The Idaho Legislature. The Idaho Military Division. The Bureau of Disaster Services.
And now for a second time, the Idaho Transportation Department.
Why would Darrell V Manning leave retirement, time after time, to return to state government? Why did he agree to accept, without hesitation, a governor’s appointment to lead the Idaho Transportation Board?
Because he was asked.
Through the years, perhaps attributable to his military experience, Manning has developed a reputation for being an administrative troubleshooter – one who possesses an innate ability to recognize where and how to implement change.
This month he returns to some of his earliest roots in state government. He was serving as director of the Department of Aeronautics in 1974 when then-Gov. Cecil Andrus introduced a plan to reorganize agencies into 20 departments. Aeronautics, highway safety and highways were combined to become the Idaho Transportation Department.
Manning’s role expanded to become the department’s first director, a position he held until Gov. John Evans appointed him adjutant general and commanding general of the Idaho National Guard in 1985. It included responsibility for the Bureau of Disaster Services, which has since been reshaped and expanded to become the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security.
In the past 20 years, Manning also served as administrator of the Division of Financial Management, acting director of the Department of Health and Welfare and special assistant to the governor.
Those positions complement earlier experiences with the Idaho National Guard, four terms in the Idaho House of Representatives, one term in the Idaho Senate, six years as an Air Force pilot, 12 years in the Air Force Reserve and 22 years in the Idaho National Guard. He has flown more than 65 different kinds of aircraft, including more than a dozen in the military.
Manning’s work since formally retiring from full-time service technically has been limited to less than half time because of restrictions on earnings. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t worked full time. When he steps into a new position, he commits the amount of time required. And then some.
The reason for his regular emergence from retirement comes down to loyalty and his reluctance to say “no,” as with the appointment in December by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to the transportation board.
Manning accepted “Because I was requested to do so by the governor. I did not seek the job; I was appointed by the governor and serve at his pleasure… I have always tried to serve my country and my state in any capacity I’ve been asked to do.”
A native of Preston in southeast Idaho, Manning has served in six gubernatorial administrations: John V. Evans, Phil Batt, Dirk Kempthorne, Otter and twice under Cecil Andrus.
The study confirmed his perception that the department’s greatest strength is its knowledgeable employees.
“I don’t think you’ll find any place that has the professional qualities you have in this department; employees are highly skilled, disciplined people.”
The department has changed significantly in the two decades since Manning’s last formal involvement in transportation. ITD is a more complex agency that faces challenges related to population growth, demand on the system, the need for public transportation alternatives and budget constraints.
“Service demands are much greater today, although there have always been demands because transportation is such an important part of the state’s economy. The governor is keying on running a good, efficient organization. Customer service should be on the minds of everyone who works for this state.
“In some areas, expectations are greater (today) because people are more knowledgeable about how government works. They also have expectations that you can fix things in an hour, like they do on television.”
Transportation will always face funding demands, he said. “I don’t think you’ll ever find a time when there aren’t more demands than resources.”
The new chairman supports the concept of GARVEE bonding as a way of addressing revenue needs for maintaining and rebuilding the state’s transportation system. He admits the Connecting Idaho program experienced some initial bumps, but “that is to be expected of any new program," Manning said.
“You will always have unanticipated problems. But you take those problems and solve them, similar to the way we did in the 1950s when we had unexpected problems building the interstate. You face those unknown problems when they become known and move forward.”
Manning’s personal goal, as board chairman, is to “give good guidance to the department in strategic planning and project planning… to smooth out some of the administrative challenges with GARVEE, and make sure we do a good job for the people of this state.”
He and wife Rochelle married during his senior year at Utah State University in Logan. They have two sons, David, of San Jose, Calif., and Michael, of Boise.