After David Stanish graduated from the University of Albany with a bachelor’s degree in biology, he and his wife – whom he’d met in Australia while studying abroad the summer before graduation (“it was a summer fling that turned into something more”) moved to Gainesville, Fla., where he studied the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker for a year.
“Every day I’d go out in the morning and look for birds – they had collars on them. They would make a nest and sleep in the cavity of a tree. Each night I’d go look and see what was the the cavities. I’d climb the tree and use an articulating dental mirror to look inside. Often, I would find myself six inches from a snake or squirrel or bird.”
And while Stanish describes that experience as “probably the funnest job I ever had,” he decided to go back to school. This time, he emerged with a law degree and a master’s in environmental science. Since then, Stanish has worked in a trifecta of law bastions as an environmental attorney: in the public sector with the Idaho Attorney General’s office; in the private sector with Holland & Hart; and in his current role as senior counsel at Idaho Power. In all three Stanish has notched a number of successes on his olive branch.
“As a Deputy Attorney General, I was the lead attorney representing the State of Idaho in several successful litigation cases involving the United States Department of Reclamation, utility companies, and water user groups over control of the rights to use the water in the upper Snake River reservoir system,” he says. His work there ensured that farmers who depended on the water could use it to grow their crops “and fuel the Idaho economy.” At Holland and Hart, Stanish helped get a forest road dedicated for public use, and represented a nonprofit in a negotiation with the U.S. Forest Service to dedicate private property along the Salmon River for aesthetic, conservation, and historical education purposes.
And, “in my current position with Idaho Power, I am the lead attorney developing state and federal environmental and land use permitting for the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line Project,” says Stanish.
In addition, Stanish is a community leader. “I helped raise several thousand dollars for the Summerwind Elementary School’s Garden of Learning project (as 2011-2014 chair of the Holland & Hart Foundation),” he says, as well as organized volunteers to pitch in with sweat equity. And in August he will take the reins as chair of Junior Achievement of Idaho’s Greater Treasure Valley region.
Stanish, who has been a board member and volunteer for Junior Achievement for several years, says “the best experiences I’ve had have been teaching those kids.” From elementary through high school ages, they learn why math and science matter and take JA classes in workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and personal finance.
During a class focusing on getting the students thinking about what they want to be when they grow up, Stanish asked them this question: “Maybe a lot of people want to be an astronaut – what’s your backup plan?” One of the students held up his hand. “I want to be a roller coaster engineer.” At the time, Stanish thought that was not a practical idea. But then – “it turns out there’s a really successful roller coaster engineer school in Idaho,” he says with a laugh.
The best advice Stanish ever received came from Hon. Ronald Wilper, senior judge, Fourth Judicial District Court of Idaho. “He said ‘it’s not always about what you missed or didn’t do – it’s focusing on your main points, the bigger picture, that’s really what’s most important.”
Any spare time Stanish has he spends hiking, backpacking and skiing with his family: wife, Sherry and his 5 and ½-year-old twins, Jack and Ember.
Most memorable airplane trip: “When I was little, about 8 or 9, my uncle took me up – he was a small engine pilot. It was a thrill for me. We landed in an aviation junk yard and had lunch before we took off and went back.”