“I was the youngest girl with three older brothers in a military family, so I grew up with my dad telling me that I could do anything the boys could do,” explains Lori Otter, a former school teacher and administrator who served as Idaho’s First Lady of the Gem State from 2007 to 2019. “And there is a generation of women out there who share this mind set and are capable leaders in their fields.”
Lori Otter, CEO of Idaho Women in Leadership, is the 62nd Idaho Business Leader of the Year. Alpha Kappa Psi (Delta Upsilon chapter), the professional business fraternity at Idaho State University, recognized Otter at their annual award dinner in Pocatello in March. The award recognizes an Idaho business leader who has demonstrated outstanding business and professional ethics while contributing significant support to worthwhile community, civic and education activities.
Otter’s commitment to Idaho has been legendary. After graduating from Idaho schools, she won the Miss Idaho USA title in 1991 and represented Idaho in the Miss USA pageant. She taught K-12 students and coached sports in the Meridian public school district, then dedicated herself to public service when her husband, Butch Otter, served as Governor.
Her passion for education continues as Chief Executive Officer of Idaho Women in Leadership (I-WIL), a bipartisan nonprofit organization that advances Idaho women in government and business through its leadership training programs. I-WIL’s goal is to inspire women to “Step up, step out and lead.”
In the Political Leadership Training Series, “We will recruit people who are interested in or thinking of running for office and help them understand what that looks like,” Otter says. “We’ll help identify the variables that you can control, and teach you how to tuck and roll with the ones that you can’t.”
Through the Business/Corporate Leadership Training Series, the organization helps develop mentor programs within corporations and provide keynote speakers to assist with professional development. “We’re going to be talking about different skill sets that women bring to business and how that affects your return on investment,” Otter says. “There’s a lot of research on the fact that women on boards do help the bottom line for companies.”
I-WIL recruits for both programs through civic clubs and professional organizations. “It’s not so much just for professional women as much as it is for women who want to be involved in leadership,” Otter explains. “Leadership is a learned trait and a learned characteristic.”
Her own leadership skills have led to her most recent success - launching her third career in real estate where she ranked in the top 14% of agents in her first year. She serves her clients with the same commitment and purpose she displayed as First Lady, helping Idahoans achieve their real estate goals and dreams.