Chris Carlson has a “checkered past.”
Born in Kellogg on December 22, 1946, the eldest son of two school teachers, the family moved to the Spokane Valley when he was ten. During teenage summers he held a variety of jobs, from being the town dry cleaner in Salmon to opening old collapsed mine tunnels near Idaho’s Big Horn Crags to working in the woods of north Idaho as a choke-setter and tree-faller.
He graduated from Central Valley High School in 1965 and attended Columbia on a scholarship where he received his B.A. in three years by taking the maximum course loads allowed and attending summer school. He majored in English Literature and minored in Comparative Religions. Upon graduation in May of 1968 and facing the prospect of the draft, he took ten education credits at Gonzaga which qualified him for an Idaho provisional teaching certificate. He secured a position teaching 8th and 9th grade classes at Kootenai Junior-Senior High School and also coached the junior varsity basketball team.
In the fall of 1969 he began work on his M. A. in English Literature at Idaho State University where he also taught two sections of Freshman Composition each semester.
Planning to marry in June of 1970 and needing more money he secured an additional full-time job as the political and education reporter for Pocatello’s daily newspaper, the Idaho State Journal. Completing his M.A. in just one academic year, he decided to pursue a journalism career and worked for six short months for the Spokane Daily Chronicle.
In January of 1970 he became the chief correspondent in Washington, D.C., for the Anchorage Daily News. While there he also began writing a weekly political column carried by five newspapers in his native Idaho. After two years, he began a thus far life-long association with Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, and returned to Idaho to become the governor’s press secretary. Five years later he returned to Washington, D.C., as the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Public Affairs when Andrus became Interior Secretary during the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
In January of 1981 Governor John Evans named him to the newly created Northwest Power Planning Council. In November, he resigned to begin his private sector career, first as vice president of The Rockey Company, a Seattle-based public relations firm, where he set up the firm’s public affairs division. In November of 1984 he was lured back to Spokane by the then area’s largest private employer, Kaiser Aluminum, which made him the vice president for northwest public affairs. In January of 1989 he left to be the founding partner and open the Spokane office of what would become the region’s largest independent public affairs firm, The Gallatin Group, with offices in Boise, Seattle, Portland and Helena as well as Spokane.
Upon leaving the governorship in January of 1995, Cecil Andrus, with whom he remained associated, accepted his offer to join The Gallatin Group as a Senior of Counsel and operate from the firm’s Boise office.
In 1999, Chris was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease which mercifully has moved very slowly and is still confined to his left side. He continued to run the Spokane office and serve on Gallatin’s board. In November of 2005, however, he was diagnosed with late Stage IV carcinoid neuroendocrine cancer and given six months to live. The world’s premier hospital for this form of cancer, Houston’s M.D. Anderson, after looking at his CAT scans and MRI’s, refused to see him to give a second opinion. He then turned to the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where he underwent a series of chemoembolization procedures including an experimental last one in which radioactive pellets were placed on the remnants of shattered tumors on his liver. He also receives a monthly sandostatin shot. For whatever reason his cancer stabilized and he is still here defying the odds.
He took a medical disability retirement from his firm but has remained active in the public arena. He chaired the 2008 campaign in Washington state against Initiative 1000, the doctor assisted suicide measure.
He writes a weekly political column carried by three papers and two blog sites in Idaho. He is the author of Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor and Medimont Reflections, a book of essays on other notable Idahoans and issues he has dealt with over a 40 year career.
He and his wife, Marcia, were married on June 12, 1970, and now reside at Medimont on Cave Lake in southern Kootenai county. They have four adult children and two grandchildren and attend St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Spokane.