Over the course of the last 13 years, I have been privileged to serve the Wyomingites of House District 22 during four legislative sessions. In those eight years, I worked hard to represent the people of Teton, Lincoln and Sublette counties with an eye toward fairness and policies that benefited all of my constituents.
However, it is with mixed emotions that I have decided not to run for office again. I believe it is time to pass the torch. While my service to the state and to you has been rewarding in immeasurable ways, it is also time-consuming and often frustrating.
During my first two sessions from 2008 to 2012, I admired the way lawmakers worked together to find compromise in a civil manner. In 2012, I had to return to work in the private sector and stepped down. When asked to run again in 2018, I did not realize how the divisiveness had festered and created a Legislature with far less ability to compromise.
One of the unique aspects of HD 22 was the diverse constituency spread between agriculture in Sublette, the tourism base in Teton and traditionally conservative in northern Lincoln counties. It has forced me to greet each issue with an open mind and careful consideration. At that time it made sense for me to run as an Independent.
One of my most rewarding accomplishments during my tenure was the 2009 passage of an ad valorem tax on helium that had been overlooked for years. That brought several millions of dollars into Sublette County and the state as a whole. I worked closely with Sublette County commissioners, the governor and members of the Minerals Committee to pass this piece of legislation.
In 2012, I cosponsored legislation that made it illegal to text while driving. I know in my heart, this legislation has saved lives and am glad I made it a priority.
Over the years I have served on the Minerals, Corporations and Revenue committees and the Select Committee on Natural Resource and Wildlife funding and Select Water. Through this work I have come to meet some of the best and brightest that Wyoming has to offer. I have been fortunate to serve on some of the most respected and effective committees.
It is important for you to understand that over my legislative career, lawmakers have made significant cuts to state government spending in the last 10 years. Those cuts impacted education, health care, highways and law enforcement. In the last year, the state's coffers have significantly benefited from the rising prices of coal, oil and natural gas. The Legislature has attempted to restore some of the funding cut over the last decade. But we must, as a state, recognize that the volatility in the minerals market will continue to make it challenging for Wyoming to thrive.
I can also say with certainty that Wyoming’s elections are safe, well-run and accurate. After considerable examination at many state and county agencies, it was clear that there was no fraud in the 2020 election. The Wyoming Secretary of State and county clerks take great pride in their work and, as a member of the Joint Corporations Committee, I had the privilege to work with them.
This last year, the majority of the work that the Corporations Committee conducted was the federally mandated redistricting process. This was, and usually is, a messy and contentious process, but the work we did on that committee and the bill that we sent to the legislature was fair and accurate. I feel that process would benefit if we would take the politicians out of it.
After redistricting, Sublette County plus LaBarge is all one House district. I was lucky to sit just in front of your Rep. Albert Sommers and can honestly say there is not a harder worker in the entire Wyoming House. It was a privilege to serve with Albert!
As I step back, I would like to endorse Bob Strobel to replace me as an Independent for HD 22. Bob will think for himself and consider the needs of all HD 22’s constituents. He is a Teton County business owner that lives in Lincoln County with his young family. I have spent some time over the last couple of years working with Mr. Strobel on the legislative process and what I believe it takes to make a good representative. He has gained my trust and respect.
I would like to thank all of you that I have served. Everyone I came into contact with while in office felt Wyoming is worth fighting for, even if our ideas varied. It has been an honor to represent you all in the state Legislature.