Walt was born in Walla Walla, Washington, a small town just over the Blue Mountains from Lewiston, Idaho.

He grew up on a wheat farm that remains in his family today. His father was a small-town lawyer and his mother was a leader in the conservative rural county’s local Republican Party.

After a year practicing law and a tour of duty in the Army, Walt was recruited to serve in the White House during the Nixon Administration.

He was instrumental in the creation of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and consolidation of all U.S. Border Patrol functions into a single agency in the U.S. Treasury Department.

He moved to Idaho in 1974 and is married to former Boise television newscaster A.K. Lienhart-Minnick, a former chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.

Walt has four children, one granddaughter and one grandson, and they are the reasons education is one of his passions. He is former chair of the College of Idaho board of trustees, and served as chair of the Boise State University Business School Advisory Council.

Walt is co-founder and board member of the Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence, a group of Idaho business leaders dedicated to improving education in the state.

He has also served in leadership roles in many other civic, charitable and business organizations.

Walt is a gun-owning outdoorsman who spent 21 years as an executive in the Idaho forest products industry, 16 of it leading one of the state’s largest Idaho-headquartered public companies.

He has a deep understanding of natural resource and environmental issues that impact Idaho. Walt spends much of his free time with his family fishing, camping and hiking in the Idaho outdoors.

Proven Leadership

Walt has a long history of serving the community. While Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Board at College of Idaho, the college changed its name and doubled its endowment.

During his tenure as Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Board of the community-owned Bogus Basin ski area, Walt helped the organization return from the verge of bankruptcy.

Under Walt’s 16-year tenure as President of TJ International, the company grew sales from $60 million to $700 million, never failed to make money and added thousands of good-paying jobs to our country’s economy.

Walt’s decades of service as a business leader resulted in his 1991 selection by Idaho State University as its Idaho Businessman of the Year.


  • Whitman College in Washington State. Economics degree, Summa Cum Laude
  • Harvard Business School. M.B.A. with High Distinction
  • Harvard Law School. Juris Doctorate, Magna Cum Laude

Professional Career

  • 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War
  • On staff at the Nixon White House
  • Deputy Assistant Director, Office of Management & Budget
  • Former CEO of TJ International, a $700 million public company in the forestry industry headquartered in Idaho Co-founder and CEO of SummerWinds Garden Centers, Inc., the 10th largest independent garden center company in the United States.

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Walt and family head in to vote
This program is slick ...
Hello, can I count on your vote?
GOTV is fun
Walt visits GAPP
Grandpa is funny
With Grandpa
Walt's birthday
Walt interviewed by KUOI

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