Meet the Idaho Broadband Advisory Board

The Idaho Broadband Advisory Board was created by the Idaho Legislature in 2021, via the passage of  House Bill 127. The board consists of three members from the Idaho House of Representatives, three from the Idaho Senate and three appointed by the Governor.

The board established the Idaho Broadband Strategic Plan, which supports the board’s vision that Idahoans have access to affordable and reliable broadband infrastructure. The board is responsible for structuring, prioritizing and dispersing state and federal grants, which will enhance connectivity across the state and address equal access to economic development, telework, public safety, telehealth and education. Click on the photos below to see each board members’ bio.

View the Idaho Broadband Strategic Plan.

View the Idaho Broadband Advisory Board Bylaws.

Board Meetings

Representative John Vander Woude

Representative John Vanderwoude is on his 6th term, he has also served 16 years on the Nampa Christian School Board. Furthermore, he is a former board member of the United Dairymen of Idaho, Milk Producers of Idaho and the Idaho Dairy Herd Improvement Association.


Senator Doug Ricks

Senator Doug RIcks is a fifth-generation Rexburg resident. He is a graduate of Madison High School, Ricks College, and BYU-Idaho. Doug is a retired university administrator, small business owner, precinct committeeman and former Madison County GOP chairman. He has been married to his spouse Melissa for 37 years and has five children and four grandchildren.


Margie Watson
JC Watson & Company

Margie Watson is a longtime business owner and community leader.  She has served on the state’s Economic Advisory Council and on the University of Idaho College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Advisory Board.  As a former Parma Mayor, Parma City Council President and Special Education Teacher, Mrs. Watson is dedicated to public service. She is also one of the founders of the Treasure Valley Agriculture Coalition.

Representative Megan Blanksma

Representative Megan Blanksma is a graduate of Nampa High School. She has a B.S. in economics from the University of Idaho and is on her 3rd term.


James Ruchti

Senator James Ruchti

Senator James Ruchti was born and raised in Pocatello, Idaho.  He is a graduate of West Point (1993) and the University of Idaho College of Law (2001).  He is also a partner at Ruchti and Beck Law Offices and married to his wife Wendy, with 2 children: Spencer and Drew.


Mitch Watkins
Watkins Distributing

Mitch Watkins is the President of Watkins Distributing. As 3rd generation beer distributor, Watkins Distributing is a family-owned distributor serving Anheuser-Busch products, and many others, to all of Idaho for over 30 years. Watkins Distributing currently employs over 200 people in Idaho and contributes approximately $90 million to Idaho’s economy annually. Mr. Watkins’ business acumen and experience are key to his ability to advise on infrastructure needs across the State.


Representative Barbara Ehardt

Appointed in 2017, Representative Barbara Ehardt was born and raised in Idaho Falls. She attended North Idaho College and Idaho State University on a basketball scholarship. Now, she owns and operates Coach E’s Camps and Clinics and runs a highly successful travel basketball program for high school boys (with five players to play collegiately). Barbara spent 15 years as a NCAA Division I women’s basketball coach at UC Santa Barbara, Brigham Young University (Provo), Washington State University, and Cal State Fullerton as the head coach. She also served as president of the Bonneville County Republican Women.


Treg Bernt

Senator Treg Bernt

Senator Trent Bernt was born and raised in Pocatello.  He is a fourth-generation Idahoan and a graduate of Idaho State University with a B.A. in speech communication.  He is a small business owner and has served the Meridian community in several roles since 2007. He is married to his wife Tiffanie and has three children.


Andy Emerson
MH Solutions

Andrew Emerson is the President of MH Solutions.  MH Solutions is a company specializing in the design and supply of bulk material handling systems for mining, cement and other heavy industrial applications with experience working on major projects all over the world.  Mr. Emerson’s professional experience and education in civil engineering bring key perspectives to the expansion and deployment of broadband infrastructure.