Candidates meet the Valley

The Valley Service Organization sponsored a candidate forum at the Platte Valley Community Center Monday night


About 50 people attended a July 25 Candidate Forum hosted by the Valley Service Organization (VSO) at the Platte Valley Community Center (PVCC). Eight candidates auditioned for three different government positions at the event including Clerk of District Court, Carbon County Commissioner and Wyoming State Representative for House District 47.

The three who ran for the House District 47 seat consisted of two Republicans and one Democrat. Jerry Paxton, the Republican incumbent, has served since 2013 and cited experience as a high school principal, as well as stints on the town council and as mayor in Encampment and Riverside. Paxton serves on the education committee, and when asked by the moderator what his “craziest idea” for revitalizing the economy was, he said the University of Wyoming (UW) should study how to harvest energy from woody biomass.

Paxton’s Republican challenger Julie McCallister stressed transparency in government and the need to eliminate wasteful spending. As an example of how she’d do this, McCallister, said she would like to move the state auditor’s office out from the control of the governor. McCallister has a background in the oil and gas industry and also has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from UW.

From the left, Paxton is challenged by Democrat Ken Casner, owner of the Elk Mountain Trading Co. Restaurant. Casner stressed the importance of working together as a state, and promoted a flat tax. Casner said he’s not beholden to special interests because “(he’s) never taken a dime from anybody,” and that Wyoming should have taken the Medicaid expansion money offered by the federal government.

Three incumbents and two fresh challengers made up the slate of contenders for the three open Carbon County Commissioner positions. Four of the five commissioner candidates were Republican, including all three commissioners up for re-election.

Incumbent Sue Jones called the Dixon airport her “baby” and said her hair had been whitened by a life in politics that started as a Saratoga Town Council Member at age 23. “I question the sanity or intelligence of any of us who want the job of doling out money,” Jones said.

John Espy, also an incumbent commissioner, said he graduated high school during a bust, and a lot of people he graduated with “had to leave not just Carbon County but the State of Wyoming.” Espy owns a ranch in the area and said Governor Matt Mead had put him forward to serve on a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) resource advisory committee.

The third incumbent commissioner is Republican Lindy Glode. Glode has previously served as Clerk of District Court and stressed needing to do more with less during tough times. “I feel like the county is my county, and I appreciate all of it,” Glode said of living in several different area towns.

Republican challenger Terry Weickum touted the eight years he had served as a commissioner in the past. He also spoke of serving on a wind power committee, a particularly relevant qualification with the Power Company of Wyoming looking to begin installing a large wind farm in the area shortly. “We underestimate our tourism (as an economic driver)” Weickum said. He believes money can be saved by eliminating the duplication of services between Carbon County and its different towns, and wants to hire a full-time grant-writer for the county.

The lone Democrat running for a commissioner position is Kenda Colman, who has been a town council member in Medicine Bow for 16 years. Colman spoke of the need for high-speed internet in the area, and for better cell phone service. Unlike her competitors, Colman expressed deep reservations about plans for an area wind farm saying it’s not a proven job-maker and may be costly to decommission later on.

For clerk of court, Mara Sanger said she was “born to be” a clerk of the court and has served in that role since May of this year. Before that, Sanger spent eight years as a deputy. Sanger is challenged by Jennifer Snider, who has spent sixteen years working in the clerk of the court’s office.


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