Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Dirk Kempthorne (2006–2009): Secretary of the Interior

Dirk Arthur Kempthorne was born October 29, 1951, in San Diego, California. He earned a B.A. from the University of Idaho in 1975. From 1975 to 1977, he served as executive assistant to the director of the Idaho Department of Lands. He then worked for the Idaho Home Builders Association as the executive vice president. In 1985, Kempthorne was elected mayor of the city of Boise, Idaho, where he served until 1993. During his tenure, he oversaw growth and economic development in Boise.

In 1992, Kempthorne was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican. He stayed in the Senate for one term, during which time he spent time on issues related to fisheries and wildlife. He did not run for reelection to the Senate, choosing instead to run for governor of Idaho. He was elected governor in 1998 and reelected in 2002. As governor, he dealt with issues of natural resources and development in the West; for example, he worked to develop a bipartisan agreement on a state-based solution for returning salmon runs in the region.

On May 26, 2006, the U.S. Senate confirmed Kempthorne as the forty-ninth secretary of the Department of the Interior. President George W. Bush selected Kempthorne in part as a Western Republican who would push for more oil and gas drilling. As secretary of the Interior, he is responsible for managing the National Park system, wildlife refuges, and more than 260 million acres of multiple-use lands. Secretary Kempthorne has pursued major initiatives in improving Native American education and community development, as well as efforts to boost oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. Environmentalists have criticized him for not adding more plants and animals to the endangered species list and for putting commercial interests ahead of environmental ones.