Feature interview with Idaho Fish and Game Commission's first woman chairman
By Sandy Compton
Nancy Hadley is a wisp of a woman, almost slight. She has a set to her jaw that warns me not to get her mad. The Sandpoint native is CEO of Sand-Ida Services, and is 39 years old. ("I'll be 40 this year," she says, a bit of panic in her voice.) She oversees operations including The Edgewater Resort, Pastime Cafe, Mitzy's Lounge, Fifth Avenue Restaurant, the Sandpoint BP Station and the Quality Inn.
Hadley is the youngest child of Cris and Leo Hadley, who co-owned and operated Sandpoint Marina. She grew up on the lake and following her dad around in the woods.
Leo, who passed away last October, was one of Sandpoint's most avid sportsmen. Nancy inherited his love for the outdoors, and that led her to be the first woman on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Last fall, she was elected chairman of the commission for 1999.
Nancy has accomplished inroads into traditionally male bastions without the "I'll show you" consciousness of some feminists. She does these things, not to prove anything, but simply because she wants to.
Q. Tell me about some of your "firsts."
A. (Laughs.) I was the first woman in my dad's elk camp. That's number one. ... I was 20. He (Leo) wouldn't let me go before that.(She thinks a moment.) First woman roller operator on the Peak Paving crew first woman on a Peak Paving crew, period. That was before kids. First woman in the Sandpoint Elks Club.
Q. After the Elks membership, what was next?
A. The Fish and Game Commission. Within a year and a half of being appointed, they elected me first woman chairman, at a very turbulent time.
It's an unsettled time in the history of Fish and Game. They changed directions and there has been a big change of commissioners. Finances are a big concern and we've had no luck getting money from the Legislature.
We've had increasing demands from Endangered Species Act issues, and non-resident tag sales are down.
We're looking at problems in our premier elk herds. You can't let hunters take a toll on the animals, and in the Lolo zone, we've got problems with declining population, so our hunters are declining, too.
Q. When did you start hunting?
A. Before I was old enough to carry a gun, I started following my dad around in the woods. We'd take a weekend deer-hunting trip. I'd get to shoot the .22 and play cards.
Q. Tell me about your family.
A. I have two boys. Eric will be 12 in May. Daniel is 10. They go to Washington School; where I went. They've been following me around in the woods since they were 5 and 3. Eric will get his first hunting license this year.
Q. You recently remarried.
A. To Jim Aiken. He owns Pend Oreille Barber Shop downtown; an avid hunter and fisherman. We love spending time together outdoors. He loves to play cards. We have so much in common.
Q. Tell me about your mom. Suddenly, I feel like a psychologist.
A. (She laughs, and then she's quiet for a moment.) My mom's my mom. She's still living over on Boyer in the house I grew up in. I think of her as the old-fashioned mother who stays home and takes care of her husband and family. She shakes her head at what I do sometimes. When I took the Fish and Game position, she asked "How are you going to have time for that?"
Q. How did you get appointed?
A. A couple of men from the BCSA (Bonner County Sportsman's Association) approached me and told me the governor was thinking of appointing a woman and thought I was a good candidate. I've taught hunter safety and hunter ethics and responsibility for 14 years. The commission is like a board of directors, too, so my business expertise came in handy. I sent a resumé to the governor with a request to be appointed. They did interviews, and I was appointed.
Q. Tell me about your first elk.
A. (Laughs) I was down on the St. Joe, hunting with my dad. We'd been out for a while when I saw an elk up through the bushes. I waited until I had a good shot and then took it. It took a step toward me, but it didn't go down. In the excitement, my gun jammed, and I told Dad to take it.
He pulled up and fired, and the elk still didn't go down. I looked at him, and he had shot in a completely different direction. I ended up taking the elk I had shot at, and we had two elk down. Mine was a cow. His was a four-point bull.
We dressed and quartered his first and got the meat in sacks and hanging in a tree. Then we went up and did the same to mine. We walked out real close to dark that night. (She pauses) My dad patted me on the back that night and told me I'd done a good job. That was very important to me. ... I was 27. I hunted seven years before I got my first elk.
Q. Losing your dad must have been hard.
A. Yes. Last October, right after he got back from elk hunting, he called and told me he wouldn't get to go deer hunting this year. We always go deer hunting together. He had gone to the doctor, complaining of shortness of breath.The doctor figured he'd already had a heart attack and sent him to the hospital where he had another, massive attack.
He's going to be missed. A member of the Sportsman's Association said it would take four people to do what my dad used to do. The shooting range over on Lake Street is named for him. Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club's derby button has his name on it this year. Ducks Unlimited donated the money raised from their annual banquet in his name. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's local chapter had their annual banquet April 17, and the theme of it was "Echoes from Elk Camp in Memory of Leo."
Q. One last question: would you say you were a "Daddy's Girl?"
A. No. I picture a daddy's girl as being spoiled or pampered not that I wasn't. Leo and I were good friends. We enjoyed doing things together. The fact that he was the world's best father on top of that was an extra bonus.