Candidates meet at PVCC

 


About 40 citizens came to the Platte Valley Community Center (PVCC) Oct. 10 to attend a candidate forum hosted by the Valley Service Organization (VSO). The forum included three candidates for Saratoga Town Council, four candidates for Carbon County Commissioner, one candidate for Wyoming House Dist. 47 Representative and two candidates for U.S. Congress.

The forum started at the town council level, with Steve Wilcoxson, Glee Johnson and Jennie Lou Ivory vying for two open slots.

Addressing the audience softly, Wilcoxson spoke of his two prior terms on the town council, and touted his experience as a domestic violence volunteer and a marine. He described himself as an advocate for transparency and said, “I’m not afraid to talk and put my position out there and be criticized.”

Two projects he said he would pursue if elected were updating the town’s storm sewer system and moving forward with renovating Tyler Pickett Park.

Though Jennie Lou Ivory only moved to Saratoga in 2015, she said she was already smitten with the area and its family-oriented values. Younger than her two opponents by decades, Ivory repeatedly cited her commitment to learning the complexities of local governance and “forming some unity,” on the council. “I’m going to ask a ton of questions because I want to get it right,” Ivory said.


Johnson painted herself as a well-informed candidate with years of experience in municipal governance and a firm grasp of local issues and laws. Johnson was once mayor of Sinclair, and was also on the Saratoga Town Council in years past. “I’m a studier, I like to be well-informed,” Johnson said. “I like the idea of discussion–most women do,” she continued.

Four Carbon County Commissioner candidates, John Espy, Sue Jones, Lindy Glode and Kenda Coleman were also present, and they received a sharper, more extended line of questioning that focused on budget cuts. Espy, Glode and Jones are all incumbent Republicans up for re-election, and Coleman is their Democratic challenger.

Former Elk Mountain council member Coleman was on the offensive at the forum, referring to herself as the “new kid on the block,” and laying into her opponents’ policy specifics. Coleman accused the commissioners of short-changing a Medicine Bow clinic, and said “It’s easy to be a commissioner when there’s money.” Coleman also spoke against a wind-farm proposed for the area, and promised to work to bring amenities like high-speed internet and natural gas to rural residents.

In many ways, Jones was the other commissioners’ first line of defense. Jones was first to respond to many of Coleman’s charges, and her answers seemed designed to telegraph a cool grasp of the issues and a fidelity to what is achievable. “The point is, there’s not a lot of money,” Jones said defending tough choices. Jones said one example of success is the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation, and that the wind farm will eventually be a revenue bonanza. On the need for economic diversification, Jones said, “It is sad, there’s only four counties in this state that don’t depend on energy.”

Espy touted his work on various state task forces and also defended the wind farm project and the Commissioners’ work to prevent a new tax on wind energy. The tax could have scuttled the new wind farm, and taken away a valuable revenue stream for Carbon County, Espy said. Espy added it was important to preserve multiple uses for public lands, saying after regulators start going after oil and gas developers, “Then they start going after the outfitters, then they start going after the ranchers, then they start going after the loggers …”

Glode spoke of savings the commissioners had found after the county’s valuation dipped precipitously recently. Glode said hiring a human resources director “is a dream of mine for Carbon County.” The HR director would work under the commissioners’ direction but retain some autonomy, in Glode’s conceptualization. As a commissioner, Glode said she had fought to continue funding “quality of life services” like senior center, museums and libraries, though all these underwent sharp budget cuts along with other county services.

State Rep. Jerry Paxton took the stage alone. Paxton’s Democratic opponent Ken Casner was present in the audience, but Casner opted to stay silent until a one-on-one Oct. 25 debate with Paxton at the PVCC.

Paxton described his time as a high school principal and his two terms serving in Cheyenne. He was on the education committee in the statehouse, and Paxton promised to, “turn over every rock look (ing) for revenue,” during tough times. One of Paxton’s ideas is to provide funding to study the use of woody biomass in power-generation. It’s better to use the area’s beetle-killed trees for power than “to sit down here and watch them burn and inhale the smoke,” Paxton said. He announced he opposed proposals to transfer federal land to the State of Wyoming, saying Wyoming didn’t have the money to maintain it.

Two candidates, Ryan Greene of the Democratic Party, and Daniel Clyde Cummings of the U.S. Constitution Party made their bids for U.S. Congress at the forum. Republican candidate Liz Cheney was also invited, but a forum organizer told the crowd Cheney never responded to her invitation.

Greene used his stage time to level a series of attacks on Cheney, questioning her commitment to the state and her understanding of Wyoming issues after decades spent pursuing a national political career. Greene described Cheney’s absence from the debate stage as emblematic of her detachment from issues facing Wyoming, and said during his term in Congress he would work with both parties to protect access to public lands and take big money out of politics. “I’m not leaving this state, I’m visiting Washington. I will live in my office and fly home every weekend,” Greene promised.

Cummings said he wanted to dramatically pare down the size and scope of government. Repeatedly referencing “the police state” and a $19 trillion national deficit, Cummings said “I want to be Wyoming’s voice for American liberty.” When asked if he would support parental leave policies, Cummings said those powers were not granted in the Constitution.

 

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