March 30, 2003 - Idaho Statesman: Ecuador RPCV Tom Trail diverges from GOP path
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March 30, 2003 - Idaho Statesman: Ecuador RPCV Tom Trail diverges from GOP path
Ecuador RPCV Tom Trail diverges from GOP path
Read and comment on this story from the Idaho Statesman on Ecuador RPCV Tom Trail a member of the Idaho State legislature and a Reagan-Bush Republican. Unlike some lawmakers who rarely introduce bills, Trail, with 15 measures so far in this session, is among the House's most prolific — and creative — sponsors of legislation. In addition to his hemp bill and U.N. resolution, he has authored bills for judicial reform, toughening date-rape laws, recycling oil and lowering the sales tax to 4 percent but taxing services and eliminating exemptions. Trail doesn't consider himself a maverick, though he admits some of his fellow Republicans do, and he doesn´t consider his positions contradictory to his party's. He is a lifelong Republican, and his personal brand of Republicanism allows for divergent views.
Tom served in the Peace Corps (1963-1965) in Ecuador as a team administrator for 100 volunteers. He oversaw the Ecuador Agriculture and Forestry Program, established two forestry colleges, organized a national agriculture extension service and two fish cooperatives. All are still in operation today. Read the story at:
Tom Trail diverges from GOP path*
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Tom Trail diverges from GOP path
Retired farmer has taken some creative steps as a lawmaker
Chris Butler / The Idaho Statesman
Asked to picture a lawmaker who wants Idaho´s Legislature to legalize hemp and urge the president to act on Iraq only through the United Nations, few Idahoans would picture Tom Trail.
A more likely image would be of a genteel hippie from Boise´s trendy North End — a liberal Democrat who eats tofu and looks like Jerry Garcia in a coat and tie.
The similarities to the real thing end with the coat and tie, which in Trail´s case are conservative to a fault. His salt-and-pepper hair is cut close on the sides, military style, and neatly swept back on top. Neither trendy nor a North Ender, he´s 67 and has lived most of his life on a Latah County farm outside the University of Idaho town of Moscow. Stocky with a slight paunch, he looks like the retired farmer and adult-education professor he is. His favorite dish isn´t tofu but Palouse Soup, preferably made with lentils from his own farm.
And he´s a Reagan-Bush Republican.
Unlike some lawmakers who rarely introduce bills, Trail, with 15 measures so far in this session, is among the House´s most prolific — and creative — sponsors of legislation. In addition to his hemp bill and U.N. resolution, he has authored bills for judicial reform, toughening date-rape laws, recycling oil and lowering the sales tax to 4 percent but taxing services and eliminating exemptions.
“He may not be in the mainstream of Republican thought, but he provides a perspective that´s unique to Tom Trail,” said Rep. Allen Andersen, a Pocatello Democrat who has co-sponsored legislation with Trail. “As a freshman, I looked around and decided that he was one of the people here who stands for his convictions.”
A case in point: Trail´s bill to legalize industrial hemp. Killed in the House Agriculture Committee, the measure was given so little chance of passing in the state´s conservative Legislature that it became a target of jokes. His resolution asking that the president act on Iraq only through the auspices of the United Nations drew rave reviews from anti-war protesters, but is still being held by his own party leaders, who don´t intend to give it a hearing.
“I often tend not to be with the mainstream, but this session is probably my worst batting average,” Trail said. Now in his fourth term, he adds that “in this Legislature, you´re doing well if you win one of three.”
By that reckoning, he´s on target. Six of his 16 pieces of legislation have passed or have a good chance of passing.
A seeming paradox, Trail the hemp advocate would be more at home at a 4-H meeting than a Grateful Dead concert. Trail the hero of the anti-war protesters spent eight years in the Army Reserve and said early this month that once it began, he would support a unilateral invasion as a matter of patriotism. His conservative appearance and demeanor, however, belie a mind scrupulously attuned to the university constituency he represents.
“A sign on my desk says ´constituents first,´ ” he said. “I try to forge my personal philosophy in terms of legislation that benefits the constituents of my district and the state. I think a lot of legislators tend to forget to do that.”
He shakes his head over the reception given to his bill to legalize industrial hemp, a low-octane cousin of marijuana.
“Its THC level is below 1 percent,” he said. “To get a glow, you´d have to build one the size of a cigar. … Only the dumbest farmer would grow it to try to hide marijuana plants in the same field because it cross pollinates. And the bill had a wide range of support, from farmers to environmentalists.”
Hemp is used to make paper, textiles, construction materials and other products. It´s considered good for the soil, and Trail is quick to add that it would give Idaho´s farmers, including those in Latah County, a new crop to add to their rotations.
Extending the constituents-first philosophy, he sees his opposition to unilaterally waging war on Iraq as a reflection of a popular view in his comparatively liberal district, where more than half of the work force is employed by the U of I.
“I suspect that my position would be more accepted in Latah County than in most Idaho counties,” he said with the faintest flicker of a smile.
Trail doesn´t consider himself a maverick, though he admits some of his fellow Republicans do, and he doesn´t consider his positions contradictory to his party´s. He is a lifelong Republican, and his personal brand of Republicanism allows for divergent views.
“My basic philosophy is the same as Nelson Rockefeller´s in the ´60s and ´70s,” he said. “Instead of a compassionate conservatism, it´s compassion with a moderate emphasis. And I´ve always appreciated what Bush and Reagan espoused, that the Republican Party should welcome a wide range of philosophies. So while I´m not with the mainstream of my colleagues in the Legislature, I represent one of those streams that represents my constituency.”
The approach plays well in Latah County, where Trail has won with up to three-fourths of the vote and twice run unopposed.
“Tom reflects his district very well,” says Sen. Gary Schroeder, a Moscow Republican. “It´s a university town — probably not unlike Boise if you could isolate the BSU community — and they love him there. He´s unbeatable.”
Against the GOP grain
Trail refers to himself as a year-round legislator, saying he typically spends 15 to 20 hours a week outside of sessions on legislative business. He prides himself equally on promoting bills of both statewide and local interest, from tax laws to Appaloosa license plates.
George Hatley, director of Moscow´s Appaloosa Museum, says Trail is “very well thought of here. He´s approachable, cooperative and very pleasant to work with. He´s a hard worker who takes his work in the Legislature very seriously. And education is important to him, which is important to the people here.”
The latest example was his opposition to cutting education funding. Trail was one of 10 Republican representatives voting against cutting the state´s education budget — a measure 44 of his Republican colleagues approved and House Democrats voted unanimously against. Gov. Dirk Kempthorne vetoed the bill less than 24 hours later.
Quoting Thomas Jefferson, Trail calls education “the wellspring that makes democracy great. … President Bush has said that teachers should be treated as professionals and given the resources they need. I don´t see that philosophy practiced and articulated in the current legislative body. It´s lowering the trust of our teaching community in terms of relationships with the Legislature, it will hurt kids in the long term, and it´s going to cost the Republican Party.”
A global influence
Education and human rights have been Trail´s areas of emphasis as a legislator. He was a leader of the campaign to remove the word “squaw” from Idaho place names and the four-year battle to extend the state´s minimum-wage provisions to farmworkers, most of them Hispanics. His interest in human rights springs in part from his experiences in visiting more than 100 countries.
Though he still lives on the farm where he grew up, he´s hardly a sodbuster. He has an undergraduate degree in agricultural science, a masters in adult education and a doctorate in experimental psychology. A Peace Corps veteran, he speaks fluent Spanish, is an Eleanor Roosevelt Foundation and Carnegie Corp. fellow, taught 28 years at Washington State University and is the author of four scholarly books and a novel in progress. His work with government and agricultural organizations in the Third World has given him a perspective he would never have acquired in the Palouse.
“It´s made him see things differently,” says Jo Ann Trail, his wife of 44 years. “… We´ve met people who would give everything they have for their children to be educated and have a chance to climb the ladder out of poverty. That has a lot to do with his strong feelings about the value of education and human rights.”
Jo Ann Trail is a native Virginian. The couple met at an international 4-H banquet when he was a student at the University of Maryland. “Everyone had to dress up from a country where they´d been, and he was wearing a Nepalese outfit,” she said. “He had a five o´clock shadow, and I thought he looked very exotic. Then I found out he was from Idaho, and to me that was exotic.”
Never looked back
A lifelong Idahoan born and raised in Moscow, Trail still lives on the farm his father purchased when he was 10. His interest in agriculture, education and family — he and his wife raised two sons and a daughter on the 600-acre wheat and lentil farm — didn´t leave time for much else. A political neophyte when he first ran for the Legislature in 1996, he was recruited by Republicans who thought he had the right stuff to replace a representative who was stepping down. Trail won the primary in a landslide and hasn´t looked back.
When he isn´t working on legislative business, he´s likely to be reading, traveling, taking pictures, playing golf, working in his extensive vegetable garden and listening to “Prairie Home Companion” on the radio. He likes hot soup, classical music, the novels of Tom Clancy and the humor of Pat McManus.
“Pat´s books help me keep my sanity in this Legislature,” he said.
He calls the current session the worst of his legislative career.
“The financial situation makes it tough to be generous,” he said, “and the impact of eroding the foundation of public and higher education, Health and Welfare and corrections can´t help but hurt the state.”
Not a popular message with his fellow legislators — but vintage Tom Trail.
“He´s a quiet person, but he feels strongly about things,” Jo Ann Trail said. “Tom´s not afraid to speak out to make things right. And he´ll stick with his beliefs to the death.”
To offer story ideas or comments, contact Tim Woodward
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Edition Date: 03-30-2003
More about Ecuador RPCV Tom Trail
Read more about Ecuador RPCV Tom Trail at:
A small businessman, farmer, and forester, Tom Trail has been a lifelongresident of Latah County/District 5. He was born to Floyd and Louise Trail and raised with brother David and sisters Susan and Marilyn on the 500-acre family farm near what is now Mountain View Park. In 1945, he worked with his father farming with 36 horses for thrashing grain, before self-propelled combines were invented. The two brothers walked two miles to grades 1-4 at Russell Elementary School then gladly hopped aboard 10-passenger war surplus vans for the ride to the Whitworth Building for grades 5-8. In ninth grade at 14, he drove his own car to school. In 1953 he graduated from Moscow High School and earned his Bachelors of Science degree in animal science/agriculture from the University of Idaho, planning to be a university teacher and teach overseas. He worked at the university from 1959-60 as an agricultural extension agent. A few years later, he earned his Masters degree in adult education from the University of Maryland and his doctorate in Education from Montana State University.
In 1959 he married Jo Ann Smith. Four years later, they moved to South America where Tom served in the Peace Corps (1963-1965) in Ecuador as a team administrator for 100 volunteers. He oversaw the Ecuador Agriculture and Forestry Program, established two forestry colleges, organized a national agriculture extension service and two fish cooperatives. All are still in operation today. In 1966, he spent three years in Chile as a livestock specialist and, in 1969-1971, he worked in Columbia as head of the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture Social Science Program.
Volunteerism has always been an integral part of his life. He served 20 years as a 4-H Club Leader--1952-1957, 1971-1986. In 1950, at the Spokane Junior Livestock Show, he had a Grand Champion Pig! There he met President Harry Truman who was on a train trip. In 1956, while a 4-H exchange student in Nepal, he saved the life of a local women bitten by a cobra. Tom served from 1953-1961 as a member of the Moscow U.S. Army Reserve Medical Company.
Tom worked 24 years as an agricultural extension agent for the University of Idaho and an extension training specialist for Washington State University. He helps his brother, David, a NorthWestern Mutual Life insurance agent, manage the 500-acre farm. Tom is also the owner of the company, International Trails. He is very active in the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, the Moscow Rotary Club, the Latah County Fair Board, the Moscow Health and Environmental Commission, the League of Women Voters, the Latah Health Facility Strategic Planning Board, the Moscow Nazarene Church, and the Farm Bureau. Today, their daughter Ruth resides in Seattle as a Warwick Hotel sales coordinator. Their eldest son, Mark, is an electrical engineer for Varian Associates in Menlo Park, California. Their youngest son, Steven, is a research scientist for British Petroleum in Cleveland. Steven and his wife, Debbie, have two children, Gregory and Madeline.
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