Jane Wittmeyer, whose agriculture and natural-resource industry advocacy career has spanned four decades, plans to retire in early September.
She will retain an advisory role with Wittmeyer and Associates, her 15-year-old government affairs, lobbying and policy firm that will stay in her family. Since January she has been passing responsibilities to her stepson, Murphy Olmstead, who has worked at the Boise firm for more than two years.
Wittmeyer, 64, impacted timber, agriculture and other sectors by using an informed, personable style she developed working for congressional staffs, USDA, lenders, and regional and state industry groups.
“It goes back to my farm background. I always wanted to make sure I got it right,” Wittmeyer said. “Not everybody will do that.”
She liked to work with and start coalitions, said husband Brent Olmstead, himself a longtime lobbyist. She aimed to solve the client’s problem by finding a solution that fit state policy and minimized unintended consequences.
“We worked with each other, generally,” said Wittmeyer, who directed policy for the Northwest Timber Association and earlier helped several groups combine to form the current USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council.
Growing up on a Missouri farm and competing in track and field at Kansas State University — where she earned a degree in horticulture and twice was named an All-America athlete — shaped her work ethic.
Scott Bedke, now speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives, once immediately reached Wittmeyer while she was working on a weekend in Washington, D.C., for a U.S. senator.
“She took time on a weekend to help this young rancher. I will never forget it,” said Bedke, R-Oakley. “That was over 30 years ago now. We got along well from day one. I think the world of her.”
Wittmeyer does her homework and is knowledgable, polite and direct, Bedke said.
And she’s high-energy.
“Working with the federal government, and working in and around the federal agencies, is always frustrating and will wear you down,” Bedke said. “But it never wore Jane down.”
Brent Olmstead said Wittmeyer as a D.C. congressional staffer returned to Idaho at every opportunity to meet with constituents. “Jane is loved by every farmer she ever worked with.”
After seven years with the Northwest Timber Association, she formed Wittmeyer and Associates in 2004. Clients have included Darigold, Clearwater Paper and timber groups.
During this year’s transition, Wittmeyer has focused on policy while Murphy Olmstead, 27, has handled operations, government relations and media work.
“The knowledge that she has been able to share with me is invaluable,” Murphy Olmstead said. “Although hard, Jane’s transition to retirement has assented me the direction to be better every day, both professionally and personally.”
He said Wittmeyer, a major part of his life since childhood, “has not only been a great mentor, but also a great mother, wife, and friend to many. I thank her for her hard work and guidance in my life.”
Wittmeyer, who earned an international relations MBA at George Washington University and did doctoral work at Virginia Tech, said that in retirement, she plans to travel, spend time with family and “keep up with all the folks I’ve been working with. And I will find something I can do to help people.
“I have worked all of my life, so it’s going to be really different,” she said.