Former Marshal fights for school safety

The newest member of the Idaho House said Hollywood’s shoot-em-up portrayals of U.S. Marshals are loosely based in reality.

Rep. Patrick McDonald
Rep. Patrick McDonald, at work in the House Education Committee last month.

Rep. Patrick, McDonald, R-Boise, was appointed Jan. 14 to fill the House seat vacated by former Rep. Mark Patterson.

Prior to joining the House, McDonald served in law enforcement for more than 40 years, including 33 years with the Idaho State Police.

In 2002, former President George W. Bush appointed McDonald to serve as Idaho’s U.S. Marshal, a position he held for eight years.

Visiting the White House and meeting privately with Bush was one McDonald’s most memorable experiences.

“I was there at the Oval Office, and it’s a sobering experience walking in and shaking hands with most powerful man in world,” McDonald said. “(Bush) looked at me and said ‘Smile Pat, don’t look so serious.’”

In the course of his career, McDonald met foreign dignitaries and heads of state – including former President Ronald Reagan and King Hussein of Jordan.

He helped track fugitives, transport criminals and was involved in witness protection.

But McDonald’s job was more about management, training and preparing others to do their jobs.

“There are some similarities, (but) a very small percentage, probably 10 percent of what they show you in movies, is accurate,” Patrick said.

Not surprisingly, McDonald has distinguished himself during his brief legislative tenure as a school safety advocate.  Earlier this month, he sponsored House Bill 589, which would allow districts to use proceeds from cigarette taxes to develop and enact school safety plans. The bill passed the House by a wide 54-16 margin last week, but has stalled in the dying days of the session.

During House Education Committee meetings, McDonald expressed frustration with the findings of a recent state school security report. Matt McCarter, the State Department of Education’s safe and drug free schools coordinator, told legislators that only 40 of the 74 Idaho schools surveyed indicated they had partnered with law enforcement on emergency plans.

McCarter also said both school officials and law enforcement officers have said it’s “hard to get in the door” to begin cooperating on safety planning, which surprised and upset McDonald.

“Whose responsibility is it to make sure this statute is followed with regards to these plans?” McDonald asked McCarter on Feb. 27. “It bothers me someone isn’t cooperating here to get this done.”

Although McDonald’s background is in law enforcement, he always wanted to be an educator and coach. McDonald earned a master’s degree in education from Idaho State University and has taught postsecondary criminal justice courses at Brown Mackie College.

“Education is a big-ticket item,” said McDonald, a member of the House Education Committee. “The Governor’s Task Force has submitted its recommendations and there are some good ones in there. These are hot issues.”

Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde, who has worked with McDonald throughout his whole career, said McDonald’s appointment was a good one.

“He was definitely a clean-cut American guy, spit-shined and ready to go to work,” Wilde said. “I know he has political ambition. He knows people, he’s a guy who knows the law and he’s a good fit for (the Legislature).”

McDonald, who said he would have run against Patterson this year if Patterson had not stepped down, is running for his first full term in the Legislature. He faces Republican Jason Joel Robinson in the May GOP primary and Democrat John Hart in November’s general election.

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