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1436 - Who is the `most interesting man` in WYO?

Most men secretly envy that male character in the beer commercials known as “the most interesting man in the world.”

         After watching that and also feeling a tinge of envy, I got to thinking about who is “most interesting man in Wyoming?” Or woman, for that matter.  After all, this is the Equality State.

         Another key attribute is the name of the person you could pick to spend the rest of your life with on a desert island – now that would require someone interesting.

         This column is just a first attempt.  I am making some horrible omissions.  I promise a second column in the future with all the correct people will be on it. But until then, here goes:

         Politicians like Dick Cheney, Al Simpson, Mike Enzi, Dave Freudenthal, Matt Mead and a whole bunch more should be included in our list.

         My first non-politician pick might be Mark Jenkins of Laramie who was a subject of one of my columns several months ago. He is an adventurer and writer who recently climbed Everest and has done more things that just about anyone.

         Key word here is “interesting.”  Not only have these folks led amazing and varied lives but they also have the ability to discuss just about any subject with wisdom.

         Historian Phil Roberts of Laramie would fit this bill. He really knows Wyoming and can talk endlessly (and interestingly) about the present and the past.

         Former Gov. Mike Sullivan has a lot to offer as a former ambassador to Ireland and our state’s CEO during possibly its toughest time in history.

         Not sure Christy Walton of Jackson is interesting, but she is the wealthiest woman in the USA.  That qualifies her.  Fellow Jackson billionaires Foster and Lynn Friess also qualify with the myriad of activities they are involved with across the world.

         My long-time friend Suzanne Young of Jackson knows everybody and everything.

         In the Big Horn Basin, one of the more insightful people is former Thermopolis publisher Pat Schmidt.  Another media maven who gets around is radio baron Kim Love in Sheridan.  Most recently, he has become a restaurateur, too.

         Super Philanthropists Mick and Susie McMurry have to make most folk’s list out of Casper although another person there who knows everybody is Bill Schilling of the Wyoming Business Alliance.

         Here in Lander, journalists Rone Tempest and Geoff O’Gara deserve to be listed.  Geoff actually sort of looks like the guy in the TV commercial when he lets his beard grow out. O’Gara is the long time icon of Wyoming PBS and Rone is a Pulitzer Prize winner who helped get WyoFile rolling.

         Another media type would be Bob Beck of Wyoming Public Radio.  PBS’s Debbie Hammons of Worland makes the grade. Up in Buffalo, you will enjoy the company of retired publisher Jim Hicks.  His son Robb does well, too.  Buffalo also offers up John Jenkins who fits this description, as does retired football coach Joe Tiller.

         Other folks around the state include Gerry Spence, Clarene Law, Jonathan Schechter, Nancy Guthrie, Mark Barron, John Kemmerer and Clay James in Jackson; Dave Raynolds, Del McOmie, Betty Kail, John Gans and Tom Bell, Lander; Eli Bebout, Cliff Root and JoAnne McFarland, Riverton; just about any member of the Scott family in Sheridan; Tom Lubnau of Gillette; Charley Scott, Bob Moberly and John Wold, Casper; Pete Simpson, Laramie; Wilfred Brimley and Dave Flitner of Greybull.

Also Jim D. Neiman of Hulett; Gene Kupke of Lusk; Randy Wagner, Susan Gore, Rodger McDaniel, Tucker Fagan, Lynn Birleffi, Reed Eckhart, Phil Noble and CJ Box of Cheyenne; Craig Johnson of Ucross; Hank Castillon, Green River; Jalan Crossland of Tensleep; John Mionczynski of Atlantic City; Richard Chenowith of Rawlins; the Gears of Thermopolis; John Hay and Dave Hanks, Rock Springs; Vince Tomassi, Kemmerer; Ray Hunkins of Wheatland; plus Dave Bonner and Steve Thulin, Powell.

         Some of these folks are friends and some are folks who I wish I knew better. My omissions will be greater sins than anything else. If you did not make this list it does not mean you are not interesting – it means this writer is operating a taco short of a combination plate, to quote Al Simpson.

         This is my initial partial list.

Who do you think is the most interesting man (or woman) in Wyoming? This column is published all over the state. We will compile and publish the results in the future. Email your nominations to


1435- Reflections on (primary) elections

After lots of finger-pointing, shrill complaints and off the wall ideas, the primary campaign of 2014 came to a close with predictable results.

       And as readers of this column may recall, I went out on a limb a few weeks ago and predicted the outcomes of the three most contested statewide races.  How I did with those predictions deserves some comment but before getting into that, here are some other observations:


       • It is truly impressive that an African-American man could capture one-third of the votes cast in a Wyoming Republican Primary election for governor.

       What Taylor Haynes did was perhaps the most stunning of anything that occurred during this election cycle.

       Nobody is calling Wyoming a biased state. Heck, our state motto is the Equality State.  But we also are one of the most “white” states in the union.

       For Haynes to score so well in GOP primary makes me proud of Wyoming.

       What this means is that his supporters looked beyond skin color and bought into his values and the messages he was putting forth.


       • A big delay in getting election results out of Cheyenne caused an interesting primary election night.  In the Secretary of State race, Ed Buchanan of Torrington held a slim lead all night long.

       The headline in a statewide newspaper Wednesday morning even reported Buchanan as the leader. 

       Once those Cheyenne votes came in, Ed Murray celebrated a hometown win and scored a two-percentage point victory.


       • In the State Superintendent of Public Instruction race it was not surprising to see the final result of Jillian Balow winning.

       What was surprising was how well self-described Cindy Hill-acolyte Cheryl Lain did, finishing a strong second. Especially when you could see that the electorate pretty much ignored Hill in the governor’s race. Lain actually earned two and half times as many votes as Hill. Amazing.

       Bill Winney’s third place showing is perhaps most interesting in that it begs the question: What if he had not run?  A Balow-Lain race may have resulted in a different outcome. It provides interesting speculation.

       This office will provide the most exciting race in the general election, by far, when Balow takes on Mike Ceballos. Even though Mike is a Democrat, he would bring to the office a solid record of conservative values and statewide business accomplishment.

       At this early time, I think Ceballos could be the winner. And what will be surprising to some will be the statewide Republicans of note who will come forth to support his candidacy.

       If he runs an effective campaign, we may very well have a Democrat as one of our five statewide elected officials based in Cheyenne.


       • U. S. Sen. Mike Enzi’s 80 percent win in the GOP primary sure could have been somewhat different had Liz Cheney stayed in the race.

       Enzi still would have trounced her, probably by a 65-35 percentage, but the millions spent on that race would have dwarfed all other races.

       Many of my media friends (who also supported Enzi) are still bemoaning all those lost election race advertising dollars!


       • Someone asked me the day after the election if I thought Wyoming had now heard the end of Cindy Hill, after her crushing defeat in the governor’s race?

       Not even close.  Cindy and her husband Drake will continue to be politically active in the state.  The voices will be shrill and arguments superficial, but there is no way the Hills are going off into the sunset.


       • So how did my predictions go? I was right on Matt Mead, Murray and Balow and even came within 500 votes of correctly picking exactly how many votes Murray would get.

       Biggest surprises were Ed Buchanan’s strong showing and Pete Illoway’s disappointing showing. I apologize to both for my mis-hits.

       In the governor race, as election day neared I realized that Haynes was going to vastly out-poll Hill, but, alas, this column has to be written quite a bit ahead of time. It was too late to change it.

       There was no doubt about Mead getting reelected. He is a fine governor. My first draft had him getting 65,000 votes. I changed that to 45,000 votes. He ended up with 53,673 votes. Oh well.

       I also caught grief from critics who thought it nuts for me to predict votes totals. That was the most fun.


       • Thanks again to the folks who ran.  You make life interesting for columnists but most of all, we appreciate your burning desires to serve your fellow citizens.

1434 - Oddballl WYO police reports, sex, cats, tasers

It has not been hard to collect unusual police stories in Wyoming in recent months. For example:


         • In Shoshoni, two town police officers have reportedly been dismissed over an incident where they allegedly tased a blind man during a ruckus over cats defecating all over the neighborhood.

         Subsequently, the purported cat owner L. J. Faith filed a  $1 million lawsuit against the town and the two officers.  Not sure how the case will turn out, but Faith’s lawyer Charles Pelkey of Laramie says, “We want to get our client as much as we possibly can.  Think about it. The guy is blind. He was tased on his front porch for cats crapping in somebody else’s yard.”

         Faith is 53, legally blind and receives disability payments.

         The town’s police chief and an officer answered a complaint about the cats pooping in neighbors’ yards. There were also complaints about an overwhelming and devastating smell emanating from Faith’s house because of the abundance of cats in the residence. It is believed there were 10 to 15 cats in the home.

         To make this whole situation even crazier, after answering the door, Faith wrapped his arms around a post on his porch to prevent folks who he could not see from hauling him away.   The officers first tried the taser, which they had been trained on earlier that day, but it did not work.  They thought they could just tase Faith’s arm and he would let go.

         Then one of the officers accidently tased himself when one of the prongs stuck into his index finger. The other prong struck the other officer in the forehead.

         After we assume a few moments of collecting their senses and getting organized, the officers went after the cat lover again.

         This time, they reloaded the taser and blasted Faith, who then fell to the ground.

         A Fremont County Sheriffs deputy arrived and found one probe had hit Faith in the groin. 

         News reports said Faith was handcuffed and hauled to the Riverton hospital.  He was booked into Fremont County jail for 22 hours, according to his attorney, who said: “From what I hear, being tased is rather painful and I can imagine it’s doubly frightening when you are blind and there are cops running around you, grabbing at you.”

         Pelkey says this case is close to being resolved and he could not discuss it in the press.


• Casper policemen surely did not think when they joined the force they would become the “sex patrol” but lately that is what has been happening.

         Police arrested a couple in their mid-40s after fellow moviegoers reported the man and woman were performing a sex act in the back row of a theater.

         It was during the movie Godzilla. The couple was making so much noise that fellow moviegoers contacted the theater manager.

The manager asked the amorous twosome to stop. But they were drunk and refused and went back to their activities.  The manager called the cops.

         It was not reported how thrilled the local policemen were to be on exhibitionist patrol. The man and woman were arrested and charged with public intoxication and indecent exposure.

         It might be noted the woman had a bottle of Fireball whiskey in her purse, which is a cinnamon-flavored drink  popular with young people.


         • That same drink, Fireball, was implicated in a second arrest by Casper police involving public indecency.

         They arrested a 49-year old man for having sex with a woman up against the outside wall of the Casper Post Office at 11:30 p.m. 

Officers originally saw a car parked in two spaces and went to investigate and found the couple engaged.

         The man, who tested drunk at .16 (twice the legal limit) said he “had an urge” and consummated his efforts with a woman who was also arrested for public indecency. He had “four or five beers” plus several shots of Fireball, he reported.

         Much of the detail of the two Casper stories came from


• The Gillette News-Record reports that a 32-year old woman in that city was arrested after punching and slapping her 30-year old husband.

         Apparently, the couple had entered into ménage de trios with a 35-year old neighbor woman and the wife became irritated with her husband over how it was going.  She battered her husband about the neck and head, according to police reports.

         Police Lt. Chuck Deaton was quoted as saying: “I’m guessing he was enjoying the neighbor a little too much.”

1433 - Predictions on 2014 GOP primary elections

The 2014 Republican primary is shaping up to be a real doozy.

         Just about all the statewide action of this political cycle will be decided in less than a week from right now.  Thus, it is time to make some SWAG predictions.  (SWAG stands for Scientific Wild A** Guess).

Here are my guesses in the key races of governor, secretary of state and state superintendent of public instruction:


         Governor - Let’s start at the top where two shrill and combative adversaries are challenging incumbent Gov. Matt Mead.

         We find it easy to endorse Mead. He has been a good governor. He has been a steady hand on the helm. He sure has done little to embarrass himself or the state. If either of his two main opponents would get elected, well, it would be a newspaper columnist’s dream. But it would be a nightmare for Wyoming.

 After four years, it appears that Mead has a tentative streak at times. In his defense, no governor in modern times has had to deal with an aggressive tea party movement and crazy situations like that involving the irrepressible State School Supt. Cindy Hill.

The whole Senate File 104 episode was explosive. Legislative leaders and the governor decided they had had enough of the craziness in Hill’s Wyoming Department of Education. When they acted to limit her powers it made sense. But the whole effort blew up in their faces when the Supreme Court voted 3-2 against their actions. What a nightmare scenario for all involved. But the legislators’ and the governor’s intentions were pure and necessary.

Hill boasts a loud and supportive following. But there are not enough of them who are willing to vote her in as our next governor. 

Dr. Taylor Haynes has lots of yard signs around the state and has campaigned hard. He stubbed his toe, though, with his zeal for converting public lands to state lands.

A prediction:

Mead 46,322

Haynes 28,743

Hill 28,666


Secretary of State – Contrary to the governor race, Wyoming cannot lose no matter who wins this race. All are capable men who love this state and bring quality experience to the job.

Ed Murray and Pete Illoway, both of Cheyenne, appear to be the top candidates.  Pete may be best qualified but Murray is running a dynamite campaign.  His “Murray means business” is the best slogan in the entire primary.

Clark Stith of Rock Springs and Ed Buchanan of Torrington have also worked hard. This race could be close enough that it is hard to easily pick the overall winner. But there can only be one victor.

Murray may set a record for money spent on a Secretary of State race.  In an August primary, name recognition often is the deciding factor in close races. Murray has an effective team and done just about everything right.

A prediction:

Murray 32,544

Illoway 32,329

Stith 20,868

Buchanan 17,954


State Supt. of Public Instruction – This is the only race where the Democrat Mike Ceballos has an excellent chance to defeat the Republican nominee in the November general election.

But this column is about the three main GOP candidates.

Jillian Balow of Cheyenne has emerged as the front-runner.  Her experience in her most recent state job at the Department of Family Services gives her some clout among voters willing to check out her record.

Plus her roots in Worland, Thermopolis, Gillette and Cheyenne will give her a statewide pull that the other candidates lack.

Bill Winney of Bondurant is an old friend and he would serve the state well.  I am not sure he has been able to get the statewide traction that Balow has managed to finish first. He has run before and lost in statewide elections.

Sheryl Lain of Cheyenne will be hurt by her close connection to outgoing School Supt. Cindy Hill.  The majority of Wyoming folks just want all that drama to go away. It is fair to say that Wyoming people are suffering from Cindy Hill fatigue.

A prediction:

Balow 41,922

Winney 34,856

Lain 23,511

At this point, neither Mark Gordon’s State Treasurer’s race or Cynthia Cloud’s State Auditor’s race are competitive and do not require comment.

We would like to thank all candidates for seeking public office in Wyoming.  Running for office in this time of constant social media attacks can be almost unbearable.

Even if you are not voting for a certain candidate, be sure to thank him or her for their quest for public service.



1432 - Come home to Wyoming campaign makes sense

Way back in December 1999 I wrote a column, which detailed the achilles heel of Wyoming`s economic expansion - the lack of qualified workers who live here.

My solution was inviting natives, former residents and frequent visitors back home to the Cowboy State as a key way to solve this problem.

Now here we are 15 years later, the problem is not only still occurring but it might be worse today than it was way back then in the last century.

And on a similar subject, now, like then, the out-migration of Wyoming`s young people is a subject of dismay. Somehow the state needs to reverse that trend.

But we also have to confront the reality that often our young people want to head off to the big city. This is a natural wanderlust that most people consider an asset in a young person. We can worry all day long about it, but the reality is that a great many of our young people want to get out and see the world. The old refrain from World War I comes to mind: “How do you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”

So if it is a given that they are going to leave, maybe we just need to wait a decade or two or three and then we should invite them back?

We have a great opportunity to invite them back after they have been gone awhile.

Back in 1999, I suggested the state work with Wyoming newspapers, which were sending out more than 10,000 newspapers per week to former residents who were living in the 49 other states around the country.

As a former president of the Wyoming Press Association, I saw those readers as prime candidates to accept an invitation to "come home."

Today this would still work but it could also be done through the multitude of web sites employed by newspapers, radio stations and online services.

Other folks who would be worth recruiting home to Wyoming:


• The mailing list of University of Wyoming graduates would be invaluable, as would the list of grads from the state`s community colleges. Efforts might be made around class reunion time to inform our natives about what a great state Wyoming is today.


    • The list of servicemen who have spent time at Warren Air Force Base might be a good place to recruit people to return to our state. Plus there are national guardsmen from all over America who have spent quality time at the Guernsey training facility. I ran into just such a guy in Two Rivers, WI. He actually waved me down after seeing my Wyoming license plate. “Best time I ever had in my life. You Wyoming folks are great,” he exclaimed.


    • What about the out-of-state folks who have applied for and purchased hunting and fishing permits in Wyoming. They would be ideal candidates to move here, too. Nowhere in the continental USA can offer the hunting and fishing experiences as Wyoming.  I know a realtor whose logo was “live and work where you want to play.” Made sense.  These folks would be prime candidates to bring their skills to this place they love so much.


    • Unique institutions like the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander have more than 100,000 graduates across the world, all of whom recall wonderful times during their stay in our state. I would bet that if you asked a majority of them what was the “best” time of their lives, they would mention that NOLS course in Wyoming. 


    • Vigorous retirees are always good candidates. They would bring their own retirement income with them plus usually they end up investing in local business. Wyoming offers low taxes, good medical care, low population, cheap housing and a wonderful vigorous lifestyle.  Plus our conservative financial policies and our conservative politics would cause them to come here, too.


         Most recently, we have had the pleasure of dealing with graduates of Wyoming Catholic College in Lander. They come from over 40 states around the country.

         They are loving their Wyoming experience and want to stay here and work here after graduation.  It appears that perhaps Wyoming is an “acquired taste” so the folks who know what living here means – well, they are more likely to want to live here and work here.

A  "Come Home to Wyoming" program would go a long way toward solving the problem of matching good employees with good jobs here in the Cowboy State.