Whatever Happened To: Coeur d’Alene ‘boy mayor’ Steve Judy
Former Cd’A politician uses leadership skills as exec in Boise areaOctober 12th, 2023
Steve Judy, once known as the Boy Mayor of Coeur d’Alene, says he sometimes misses the Lake City, but has never regretted the decision he and his wife, Michelle, made to pack up their family and move to southern Idaho in the fall of 2003 to be closer to their roots.
The couple live in Meridian, Idaho, which neighbors Boise and is about 35 miles from Emmett, Idaho, where Judy was raised.
Earlier this year, he was hired as chief operating officer at Boise-based Post Insurance Services Inc., following a 19-year career in a similar position with Garden City, Idaho-based Primary Health Medical Group, during which the Primary Health’s annual revenue grew to over $120 million from $20 million. The company now claims to be the largest independent medical group in the state, he says.
At Post Insurance, which is much smaller than Primary Health, Judy says he’s running business operations and working on growth and expansion plans.
In both the Post Insurance and Primary Health positions, Judy says he has drawn from his earlier leadership experience as director of Coeur d’Alene-based North Idaho Immediate Care, a position he held for much of the period he was mayor.
“I’m still in the business of helping people and leading people,” he says.
Judy, now 53 and showing some gray on his chin, has three adult sons, one of whom is three years older than Judy was when elected mayor in 1997. That year, he beat the incumbent Al Hassell by a narrow 67-vote margin. Judy served in the position from 1998 to 2001.
After the move to the Boise area, Judy’s wife, Michelle, was a teacher in a Catholic school system. She resigned from teaching in 2020 to take care of her parents, although she continues to coach girls’ golf for Bishop Kelly High School, which won the state 4A title over the weekend in Moscow, Idaho.
“Investing time with our family has been our number one priority,” he says. “I coached our boys in sports and engaged with them in school. I wouldn’t give up that part of life for anything. They are 30, 27, and 25 years old, and they’ve all graduated from college and are doing well.”
The Journal last mentioned Judy in 2000 in a story that questioned whether it was inevitable that Spokane and Kootenai counties would be designated as a single metropolitan statistical area. Some prominent business leaders in Coeur d’Alene were opposed to such a designation, fearing the North Idaho resort city would lose its identity, and Judy declined to provide comment for the story.
Twenty-three years later, Judy says he doesn’t recall the controversy.
“I’ve got nothing on that,” Judy says. “If it’s something business leaders didn’t want, that’s probably why I didn’t comment on it.”
Meantime the Spokane-Spokane Valley MSA, which was officially designated in 2013, doesn’t include Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County.
Most current references on the internet about Judy’s time as mayor deal with the difficult decision he made shortly after entering office to allow the city to issue a permit to the white supremacist organization Aryan Nations to hold a parade in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
At the same time, he urged residents to stay away from the parade and endorsed a concurrent Lemons to Lemonade campaign to raise funds for the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.
The young mayor’s dilemma over whether to issue the permit to a racist group or withhold it and face a costly legal battle over violating the group’s civil rights has since become an ethics exercise at Harvard University, and academics and constitutional experts tend to look favorably on the way Judy handled it.
Judy, however, says he’s proud of other accomplishments during his administration, such as the Cherry Hill Park acquisition on the east side of the city and improving the Northwest Boulevard entry to the west side of town, in addition to building a new police station and a new fire station.
“I think we did some incredible long-term things there that got overshadowed by other stuff,” he says.
Judy didn’t run for a second term, and instead elected to concentrate on his new business Adventures N’ Fun, a family entertainment center.
“I opened Adventures N’ Fun, and 9/11 hit and had an impact on the local economy. I knew I couldn’t be mayor and run the business at the same time,” he says. “I learned a ton from that, from the building design to everything we did with that concept. We got up to 50 employees quickly.”
The business, which was located at 722 W. Appleway, in Coeur d’Alene, closed in May 2003.
“Losing a business isn’t easy,” he says. “You learn a lot of lessons from that too.”
Judy, who had worked in his younger days for Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne when they were U.S. senators for Idaho, says he has no interest in reentering politics.
“I’m grateful for the experiences I had … being a young leader,” he says.
He adds, however, “The (political) landscape has changed so dramatically, it’s not on my radar.”