Gov. Little announces appointments to Transportation Board, Fish and Game Commission, Idaho Court of Appeals, Industrial Commission

Tuesday January 2, 2024

Boise, Idaho – Governor Brad Little announced four new appointments today.

Mitch Watkins of Twin Falls will serve as the district 4 representative on the Idaho Transportation Board, covering eight south-central Idaho counties. He replaces longtime board member Jim Kempton, who announced his retirement earlier this month. Watkins is the owner of Watkins Distributing Sales and Service, a full-service beverage distributor with facilities located in Boise, Jerome, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, and Hayden, along with locations in Miles City and Kalispell, Montana. He has served voluntarily in numerous state and local organizations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Washington.

“I’m excited to be serving on the Idaho Transportation Board at a pivotal time in our state’s history. We’re experiencing a period of rapid population and business growth, and we need the infrastructure to accommodate all of that increased pressure on our roads and highways. With Idaho’s challenging topography and severe weather, maintaining our roads and bridges is a never-ending task, but I’m looking forward to being part of the team that’s working to find the best solutions for the citizens of our state,” Watkins said. “My business operates over 150 trucks, vans, and vehicles daily, so we know firsthand how a system of safe and well-maintained roads is necessary for our employees to get their jobs done safely and efficiently. Idaho’s economy will only grow as fast as the infrastructure develops to support it.”

Governor Little also appointed Brody Harshbarger of Ashton to serve as the Idaho Fish and Game Commission’s Upper Snake Region representative.

When he is not attending to his dryland farm, Harshbarger is an avid hunter in his spare time. Harshbarger is involved in the community, serving on the Fremont County Farm Bureau as well as staying involved with his church.

"I am pleased to have this opportunity to serve Idaho. I love our wildlife and the community we live in. We have a lot of challenges, and I am excited to help continue to solve them. What an amazing place to live and work,” Harshbarger said.

Governor Little also appointed Judge Michael Tribe to the vacant seat on the Idaho Court of Appeals created by Amanda Brailsford’s appointment to the U.S. District Court.

In 2017, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter appointed Tribe as District Judge for the Fifth Judicial District with his chambers in Burley. As a District Judge, he handled criminal felony matters and high-value civil matters. He also presided over the Mini-Cassia and Jerome Felony Drug Courts. From 2005 to 2017, he was a partner in a private firm in Rupert practicing criminal law, water law, and civil litigation. He also served as a contract prosecuting attorney and was legal counsel for the cities of Rupert and Heyburn as well as the Minidoka and Cassia County school districts. Judge Tribe graduated from the University of Idaho College of Law in 2003. After graduation, he was the law clerk for the Honorable Barry Wood in the Fifth Judicial District.

“I am humbled by Governor Little’s appointment to serve on the Idaho Court of Appeals. His confidence in appointing me is deeply appreciated. This opportunity to serve the people of the State of Idaho with the current members of the Court of Appeals is the highlight of my professional life. Though sad to leave my amazing staff and colleagues in Cassia County and the Fifth Judicial District, I look forward to this new opportunity. I am grateful for the support of my wife, Amber, in all aspects of my career and with whom without I would be so much less. Going forward, I am committed to upholding the rule of law in a manner and with the demeanor that has come to define the Idaho Judiciary,” Judge Tribe said.

Governor Little also appointed Claire Sharp as the new attorney commissioner of the Idaho Industrial Commission, the state agency responsible for managing the state’s workers’ compensation system and settling disputes between workers and employers regarding work-related injuries or illnesses. It also serves as the upper-level reviewing authority for unemployment insurance decisions issued by the Idaho Department of Labor and administers the crime victims’ compensation program. Sharp will replace Thomas Baskin who dedicated 15 years of his career in service to the state as the attorney commissioner.

Sharp earned her Juris Doctor from Brigham Young University in 2008. She served as the law clerk for Commissioner James Kile from 2008 to 2009, for Commissioner Thomas Baskin from 2009 to 2016, and for Commissioner Thomas Limbaugh from 2016 to 2020. Sharp served as in-house counsel for the Pennant Group from 2020 to 2022 and then returned to state government as a Deputy Attorney General for the Public Utilities Commission. In the fall of 2023, she transitioned to serving as the primary Deputy Attorney General for the Industrial Commission.

“Returning to where my legal career began is a profound privilege, and I am eager to leverage my experience to continue serving Idaho’s employers and employees,” Sharp said. “This appointment is not just a personal milestone but a significant investment in the next generation of leadership in the workers’ compensation community. I am honored, grateful, and committed to upholding the values of public service and using my background to advocate for the best interests of Idahoans.”

“I genuinely appreciate all of these outstanding individuals for their willingness to step up and serve our great state. Idaho’s success comes from the passion of our people to make our state the best in the country, and I am grateful to these leaders and so many others for dedicating their time and talents to public service,” Governor Little said.