No one needs to tell former Sen. John McGee of Caldwell what it’s like to hit rock bottom in life – or how quickly someone can go from being a rising star to just another politician who resigned in disgrace.
What matters now is what he has done with his life since his living nightmare of 2011-12. For starters, he has been focusing on being a better person, husband and dad. He also has been working on being a stronger member of his church and community. A political comeback is a possibility at some point, but it’s not in his immediate plans.
He hears talk these days about running for mayor, or some other office, but his mind is not there. On the day we talked, he said, “I’m thinking more about what the starting lineup will look like in my kid’s baseball game tonight.”
There’s no need for Garret Nancolas, the popular long-time Caldwell mayor, to be looking over his shoulder when he’s up for re-election in two years. McGee has been part of Caldwell’s dramatic revitalization efforts in recent years, but he leaves no question about where the leadership comes.
“Garret has done such a great job of casting a vision, and what has been going on in Caldwell is a lot because of what he has done,” McGee says. “He is a good friend, and was during the difficult times for me. People may see in me someone who could carry on with those activities, so that’s where you hear a lot of the talk.”
Back in the day, when McGee was a shining star of politics, there was talk about him being a candidate for multiple offices – including governor and Congress. He appeared to be well on the path of a higher office when he was elevated to the position of Senate majority caucus chairman.
Then it all came crashing down in a bizarre chain of events in June of 2011. His day started innocently with participation in a golf tournament at Boise’s Hillcrest Country Club and ended with a drunk-driving arrest inside a stolen Ford Excursion. He was back in the Senate for the 2012 session, but resigned in the face of sexual harassment allegations for which he was convicted. He spent 39 days in jail, and his political career was over.
But his life was not. His wife, Hanna, who had every reason for tossing his belongings on the front lawn, stayed with him through the hard times – and his two young children (Madalyn, 10, and Maxwell, 8) still have a daddy.
“John and Hanna are good people, good Christians and are examples of forgiveness and kindness to other people,” said Sen. Patti Anne Lodge of Huston, one of McGee’s longtime friends and colleagues. “I know those were not happy times, but she stood by John and I’m so glad she did. Their kids are so cute and my heart would be broken if those children were growing up in a broken home.”
As McGee tells it, “Sometimes it feels like a long time ago and sometimes it feels like three weeks ago. I know I have been forgiven by God and Hanna, but I still feel there’s some making up that I need to do. I feel that God has more for me to do, and I have time left in my life to make things right.”
McGee is the marketing director for Caxton Printing, and he and Hanna operate a public relations business. Part of “making things right” includes his work on Caldwell revitalization, being a youth sports coach, sitting on a charter school board and the Caldwell Police Board, and preparing to represent his church at the Free Methodist conference in Orlando.
“In some ways, what happened to me as been a blessing. Thirty-nine days in jail … that’s rock bottom. That gave me time to think, pray and make determinations about the rest of my life,” McGee said.
“What he is doing today is more valuable than when he was in the Senate – and he did excellent work there,” Lodge says. “There’s lemonade that comes from a lot of lemons.”
And, as McGee has shown, there are many that are far more important than building on a promising political career – including a guiding faith and steering his life in a positive direction.