The Saratoga Sun -

Anything you can do

In Carbon County, four female mayors lead their towns through local and world events

 

Mike Armstrong

Sharon Biamon

In 1870, 50 years before the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States, Louisa Swain cast the first historic ballot for the general election in Laramie. She was able to vote because of a law passed the year prior in the Wyoming territory giving women over the age of 21 the right to vote and to hold public office. There were actually 93 women that voted that day, but Swain is the only name recorded.

Also in 1870, Esther Hobart Morris became the first female justice of the peace, serving in South Pass City. This far-reaching year also saw the country's first all female jury and the first female bailiff in the world; Martha Symon Boies.

Wyoming had more firsts for women.

In 1894, Estelle Reel Meyer became Superintendent of Public Instruction, the country's first female statewide elected official. From 1920 to 1921, Jackson was the first town in the U.S. governed completely by women. From 1925 to 1927, following her husband's death, Nellie Tayloe Ross served as the country's first female governor and became the first female head of the U.S. Mint, a role she held for 20 years.

Women have had an influence in Wyoming politics for 150 years and counting.

In Carbon County there are 10 municipalities, the most of any county in Wyoming. Four of these towns have female mayors.

Medicine Bow

Sharon Biamon was appointed to be mayor after Kevin Colman retired while she was on the town council.

"I ran for council because I wanted to help the town and, honestly, not many people were running," Biamon said. "I served my first term of four years and was on my second term when I was bumped up to mayor."

Biamon said she has never really thought about being a female mayor. She has always thought of herself as a mayor and being a woman never plays into her job although she has noticed on occasion a resident trying to say because she is woman, she doesn't understand the situation.

"I face it a little bit, but basically it is the same people and you would think by now, they would learn I am not someone who can be intimidated," Biamon said. "But it doesn't bother me."

She said her challenges come from trying to address complaints by residents, but being a woman doesn't enter into the interactions.

"My real challenge, honestly, is finding residents that will go on boards or run for council," Biamon said. "I understand it takes time to serve but towns need residents to be involved. It is sad how hard it is to get people involved in running the community."

It is her caring for Medicine Bow that makes her think she is the right person for mayor at this time.

"I honestly think I am the best person to help the community for this job at this time," Biamon said.

She said her time on the Medicine Bow Council gave her knowledge about what the town needs as wind projects sprout up around town.

"I learned a lot going to industrial siting meetings and I faced down people that said Medicine Bow was asking for too much," Biamon said. "But if we didn't do it at these meetings, it would have hurt the town. That would not have been good."

Although Biamon doesn't think much about being a female mayor, she does recognize her time as being the first mayor in the town's history that is a woman.

"I have a daughter and step-daughter who I have always said, go for your goals," Biamon said. "But I say this to my sons, too."

Currently her concern for the town is getting its drainage fixed. Once this problem is fixed, the streets will be paved.

"It is an exciting time to be mayor of Medicine Bow for all the public works projects going on, and we just got law enforcement which is helping the town tremendously, but COVID has been trying," Biamon said. "There is so much uncertainty and, as mayor, your big concern is to make sure people are safe."

She said Medicine Bow resident's well being will always be her number one concern.

Hanna

Lois Buchanan, mayor of Hanna did not have the experience being on town council. She had not considered running for mayor until the last election.

"I had just sold my business and I wanted to do something that would benefit the community," Buchanan explained. "I got in as a write in candidate and won. I have been on boards, but this is my first elected position."

Buchanan said she really enjoys the job.

"I am always eager to learn. If you listen, there are always better ways to do things," Buchanan said. "Needless to say, many days are a learning experience. This is not a figurehead position at all. This is a job that can be all consuming."

Buchanan said the challenges the former mining town faces are issues that are coming now because they were not properly addressed before she came to office.

The Hanna landfill had to close at the end of June and the transfer station had to be scrapped. Although the Town of Hanna and the mayor do not run the operation, Hanna residents don't always realize this point.

"The situation has been a little overwhelming, but all we can do is work through it all," Buchanan said. "We all knew the landfill was closing. The same with ordinances being enforced. The ordinances are laws of the town. Until we change them, they need to be enforced."

Buchanan came to Hanna as a law enforcement officer and believes laws should be enforced if they are on the books.

"I also try and attend as many board meetings as possible," Buchanan said. "It really helps understanding what is going on in the town."

Buchanan said losing the recreation center for months on end has been tough on the town. She said the recreation center was closed because of flooding in December and, just as the recreation center opened, it had to be closed due to COVID regulations.

"We had the flood after getting the pool fixed which was closed all of last summer and into the fall," Buchanan said. "We get the pool fixed and then the damage fixed from the flood and then there is COVID shutting the center again for months. I understand the frustration."

Besides the landfill closing, the ordinances being enforced and the pandemic, AML is filling in the abandoned mines throughout town.

"AML is doing work for the betterment of the town, but all this has come almost at the same time and it is hard for residents," Buchanan said.

Buchanan said being female has not been a factor in working with the county or state.

"I guess sometimes I will find people trying to push harder than if I was male, because they think I will cave," Buchanan said. "I am not tough skinned, and don't want to be, but I am not someone to be pushed around because someone thinks I am the weaker sex."

Buchanan said being the first female police officer in her hometown was more difficult than being a female mayor in Carbon County.

"Honestly, being a woman has had no impact on me being mayor of Hanna," Buchanan said.

Dixon

Melodie (Moon) Seilaff was elected mayor of Dixon in 2018. Prior to her election she was on the town council. Seilaff said she was on the town council for eight years. She took two years off but then she was appointed back to the council. After coming back on the council she ran for mayor and won.

Dixon has a population of 90 people and works closely with the nearby town of Baggs.

"We have an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Baggs for water, sewer and other things," Seilaff said. "We have a good relationship with that community."

Seilaff believes she is the first female mayor of Dixon, but doesn't believe it is any big deal.

"We are a tight community and we know each other, so being a woman mayor is not anything I think about," Seilaff said. "I do think all men and women should be involved in their communities as best as possible. I think all ages should be involved, too."

She said the hardest part of her job is trying to get all the funds she needs for the different projects required for Dixon.

"Most agencies do it by population and that can put us at a disadvantage." Seilaff said. "I understand the reasoning, but it doesn't make the job easier.

Seilaff originally came from a larger Carbon County town; Saratoga. She met her husband in Rawlins and his job brought him to Dixon. They raised two sons and Seilaff has lived in Dixon for 40 years.

She said that COVID has not effected her town because it is small and social distancing is inherent.

Seilaff is proud to be serving as mayor of Dixon.

"Dixon is a fantastic place to live and raise your children," Seilaff said. "It is an honor to be mayor here."

Baggs

Anna Marie Waldron grew up in Baggs and has served on the Baggs town council. She served on the Baggs council for eight years. Then, the mayor quit and Waldron found herself appointed to fill the vacancy. In 2017 she ran for mayor and was elected.

Waldron was born and raised in the Little Snake River Valley. She ran for council in her early 20s.

"I ran for council because I really wanted to beautify Baggs," Waldron said. "I was really into the appearance of Baggs. I wanted to make it beautiful with parks and I wanted to improve the roads."

Waldron said she feels that the roads are better and the parks are well maintained.

She said that a major reason she ran for mayor was to help with the water projects that were coming to the area.

"I got really interested in our water projects and I wanted to make sure that the studies and projects would continue, so I jumped back into the mayor's job with both feet.," Waldron explained.

One aspect of the mayor job is that her phone doesn't stop ringing.

"As a council member I got some phone calls, but once I became mayor, it never stops," Waldron laughed. "A lot of people think I am a cop and I can change things or stop something from happening, so I get a lot of those type of calls."

She said Baggs recently hired a code enforcer and so she is getting phone calls on derelict buildings and vehicles.

"I just talk to them and try to get the situation resolved," Waldron said. "When you take this job, you have to accept that although you might want to, you can't please everybody."

She said that if residents have a complaint, they must put it in writing.

Waldron said she has not faced any difficulty being a woman in her position.

"I face much more of challenge being considered young. I am 32," Waldron said. "In the beginning of COVID, I had people calling and telling me to shut down the town and cut everything off so there was zero contact. I had to tell them I didn't think we had to shut down Baggs. We are already sort of isolated."

She said the town followed the governor's protocols and felt that was enough to keep the town safe.

Mike Armstrong

Lois Buchanan

"Honestly, it is scary because there are so many unknowns," Waldron said. "I worry about the elderly in the community and it is stressful to face as mayor."

Waldron said the people she works with are all supportive.

She said that one thing that she wished to see more of was young people getting involved with the community.

"I think it is important for kids to get involved at a young age," Waldron said. "Get the knowledge early. I really believe you are never too young or too old to get involved in helping your community."

The common denominator taken from all four female mayors in Carbon County; being a woman has no bearing in doing their job.

Louisa Swain, who took that first step to making Wyoming the equality state 150 years ago when she cast that first ballot, would likely be pleased.

 

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