November 23rd, 2022
Shortly after I applied for the executive director position at ESPC, I read a story in the New York Times about a covert operation to infiltrate the Wyoming Democratic party. The plan, devised by a wealthy heiress, included spies, a former mercenary and a marriage. I am not sure the Cohen brothers could have come up with a better plot.
That is to say, I knew exactly what sort of political climate I was walking into when I accepted the position in August 2021.
The last 15 months have been tremendously rewarding and frustrating at the same time. My first day on the job had me attending a redistricting meeting in Casper. I followed the redistricting process closely over the summer and fall and was generally supportive of the map that the Joint Corporations committee agreed to push forward.
In January 2022 Tater Tot and I packed up and moved to Cheyenne to fully engage in the budget session. I watched the redistricting bill be amended, debated, and bounced back and forth between chambers. I also watched it sneak behind closed doors on the last day of the session, only to come out as something entirely different. And I watched, in a little disbelief, as the body voted at 11 p.m. (one hour before the deadline) on a redistricting map that no one had seen before. All that work for the rug to be pulled out from under us in the 11th hour.
Some of my takeaways from that first session
- The Capitol is gloriously beautiful and exemplifies all the wonder that Wyoming offers
- On most days in the legislature, there were more bolo ties than women on the floor
- There are lawmakers that work with integrity and virtue and others that do not
- ESPC’s role during the session is critical to ensuring transparency and accountability
- Civility is declining, shouting matches and threats were not uncommon
Since then, ESPC has been busy studying election reform and ways to improve voter participation without increasing costs to the state or increasing the burden on voters. We’ve also started working with Hispanic and Latino populations in the southern part of the state to better understand the needs of Wyoming’s fastest-growing population. We’ve also continued to support Healthy Wyoming and all the hard work to expand Medicaid.
But mostly, we have closely monitored the legislature and executive offices to make sure that they are acting with transparency and accountability. We, the people, elect our representatives with the hope that they will listen to our collective voice and work together to find collaborative solutions. I firmly believe the best public policy happens when everyone comes closer to the middle and nobody walks away with everything they want. It’s a give-and-take. It requires trust and sacrifice. Public policy is messy.
But more and more it seems that lawmakers come to the table with demands and refuse to accept anything but complete acquiescence. So much so, that they are willing to infiltrate the minority party (btw, the incoming house includes four Democrats out of 62 seats) to gain the upper hand.
Wyoming is better than that. We pride ourselves on being neighborly. We stop to pull someone out of the snow regardless of who they voted for. We work hard and respect individual rights and responsibility. We work together when we need to.
We should expect the same from our lawmakers.