BONNERS FERRY — Tonia Brooks joined the Bonners Ferry Herald in September of 2019 as a reporter, bringing a wealth of education and practical knowledge that made her an immediate asset to the team.
Brooks moved to Boundary County in July of 2017, after falling in love with the area and the community.
“Prior to coming to Idaho, I was working in California, near Yosemite, for around three years,” said Brooks. “The numerous wildfires caused my children, our animals, and I to have to evacuate our home — every year. I have a friend who lives here in Boundary County, who told me about how wonderful life is here.”
Brooks’ friend, who has since become her fiancé, told her that “there are no biting bugs, no poisonous snakes, and the winters are worse where you live near Yosemite than they are here.”
Brooks was sold.
“I was born on a U.S. Army base in Georgia,” said Brooks. “From there I lived in nine different states; Cleveland, Ohio, Charleston, W.Va., Rochester, N.Y., Sarasota, Fla., West Valley City, Utah, Phoenix, Tempe, Kingman and outlying areas in Arizona, Las Vegas, Nev., Rancho Cucamonga and Mariposa, Calif., and now beautiful Bonners Ferry, Idaho.”
Brooks’ education and life experience bring a unique perspective to the Herald. She began her education in Mohave County, Arizona, in 1995, with community college coursework aimed at obtaining a Fire Science and Emergency Medical Services certificates so she could work within her local urban fire department and on medical calls with the ambulance.
“I went on to earn my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Northern Arizona University, with the idea of becoming an attorney,” said Brooks. “I found a different path with behavioral healthcare and continued my education with a master’s in psychology, work toward the master’s of education, and further work toward a Ph.D in industrial organizational psychology.”
In addition to schooling, Brooks also started firefighting when she was 25 years old, in Mohave County, Arizona.
“At the time, I walked into the local fire department and asked about volunteering,” said Brooks. “I was fighting fires shortly thereafter.”
Brooks went through fire academies, and state fire schools, in both Arizona and California. She operated her own water tending fire contracts with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, and a tribe in Arizona. For those contracts, she had a Type II Water Tender/ Brush Truck and a Chase Truck.
Around that same time, Brooks also became nationally certified as an emergency medical technician.
“Most of the work I did while working in EMS was in Mohave County, Arizona, a very rural area in the high desert,” said Brooks. “The calls were usually intense motor vehicle accidents on the lonely highways during the night, where a lot of the time, we were on our own rendering emergency services.”
“The desert is a strange place …” she said. “I much prefer living in mountains … and I love water.”
Brooks has three adult children, one grandson, another grandson on the way, and recently found out that she has a third grandchild on the way as well.
“My oldest daughter is a U.S. Army Captain, my son, a construction professional working in the solar energy field, and my youngest daughter is a U.S. Coastguardsman, otherwise known as a Coastie,” said Brooks.
Her extended family includes three dogs, three horses, a bunch of chickens, and four cats.
“I have always had dogs share my life, and recently have been working with my Doberman in learning tracking and some other obedience work,” said Brooks. “I love training dogs, especially the Doberman and bully breeds.”
Brooks recently joined with the Boundary Search and Dive Rescue Team and hopes to train her Doberman pinscher for search and rescue.
Brooks first heard about the reporter position at the Bonners Ferry Herald from a friend and decided to apply.
“During my career, I had some positions where I was involved in interviewing others, not to mention a lot of writing experiences, so I thought how well reporting fit with what I’ve done, all the things I love doing, and how I could engage in and with my community more … so I applied,” said Brooks.
Along with writing skills, Brooks has a passion for photography, and brought that with her to the Herald.
“The power that photography has over relaying emotions, beauty, strife, values, beliefs, and moods is amazing to me. It also has helped me to slow down and focus and fall in love with even the smallest and minute of compositions,” said Brooks. “You can see things in ways you have never bothered to take time to see before. It allows me to capture stories that anyone speaking any language, can experience. It is an artform that helps me relax.”
Brooks said that she absolutely loves getting to know her community and being able to write and share interesting and fun activities that happen here in Boundary County.
“Being a part of the Herald editorial staff has been super fun and enlightening,” she said. “I feel more a part of Boundary County and Bonners Ferry.”
Her love of the community is translated into the paper through her stories and photographs, including the weekly business story that she writes about local businesses. Brooks expressed how welcomed she felt by the community, and enjoying the benefits of a small town environment.
“From all of my travels, I know from first-hand experience that people who live in smaller rural areas and happier and more content. Life is a little slower, though also more satisfying,” said Brooks. “People wave when they drive by or when you drive by, and lend a helping hand if you get into some car troubles or things of that nature.”
Brooks’ love of the area extends outside the community, and into the geography, landscape, and ever changing weather and seasons that make Boundary County unique.
“My drive into town or work is always different in that the landscape is constantly changing with the seasons ... sometimes day to day; the view is always changing. That is nice,” said Brooks. “I also love, love, love the geographic area; the mountains, the trees, the water, and the sky ... all very different here than anywhere I’ve been. This community and landscape is home, and has felt like it since the day I arrived.”
When not working, Brooks may be found in the gym, or out driving and exploring.
“Some people don’t consider sweating, picking up heavy things and putting them down over and over again a hobby, but I really love working out, bodybuilding, and just being a part of a gym atmosphere,” said Brooks. “It’s a positive place with healthy people who are genuinely trying to do great things and help others achieve their own personal greatness.”
Brooks used to enjoy building hotrods and classic cars, and at one time her family had five old project cars in various stages of build. She said that if she had to narrow down her favorite hobby, that it would involve motor vehicles.
“I love driving,” said Brooks. “Not just driving, but the experience behind unique, fast, fun, and interesting vehicles. Right now, I love my Jeep and exploring Boundary County’s trails and roads, off the beaten path. Getting away from it all and into the woods is most appealing to me at this time.”
With Brooks’ wide array of life experiences, she has become a welcomed addition to the editorial team at the Herald, quickly gaining the respect and admiration of her coworkers.
“Tonia is a joy to work with and always willing to assist even when people are lost on Main Street,” said Bonners Ferry Herald Office Manager, Linda Johnson.
Brooks has approached the position with a genuine compassion for people and the community, a hard working attitude, and a sense of humor that keeps her coworkers laughing. The Herald looks forward to watching her grow in this position.