The following biography was originally written for the Bill Sniffin for Governor web site in 2002 and has been somewhat updated:
Born on March 21, 1946 to middle class parents - his father was a bulk oil distributor and his mother was a homemaker - Bill Sniffin's desire to succeed in business showed up at an early age.
As the second oldest in a family of eleven children, he had to do his fair share. He started out as a paperboy. At one time, he was considered one of the youngest paperboys in the state for the Des Moines Register when he started delivering at age 9 to help out the family's finances.
He was a good English student at Valley High School in northeast Iowa and soon found himself writing for the school paper. His desire to report news was established. Also during this time, his hobby was collecting travel publications - he had a collection of travel magazines from more than 20 states. Thus, at an early age, his dual business interests of journalism and tourism were established. He also was night manager of the family gas station and worked on farms during haying season, tossing bales.
He was the first member of his family to attend college, attending journalism courses at Iowa State University in 1964. His siblings quickly followed and those 11 children have accumulated over 44 years of college education, an average of a 4-year college education per child.
Bill's desire to work led him to a newspaper job at Harlan, Iowa. He quickly established himself by shooting a photo that was named the Best News Picture in Iowa. His career later took him to Denison, Iowa, where he was also a full-time student at Midwestern College. Earlier in Harlan, he had fallen in love with his future wife, Nancy. They were married on May 14, 1966.
Bill became an editor in Harlan at the age of 20 (one of the youngest in the country) and started winning many national awards. But, he didn't want to be just an employee; he wanted to be the boss (and he wanted to move to Wyoming).
This led to a fortuitous joining of forces in Wyoming in 1970. Prominent publishers Bruce Kennedy, Jack Nisselius and Roger Budrow lured him to the Cowboy State at the age of 24.
He took over as publisher of Lander Wyoming State Journal and was never happier. He quotes Dick Cheney when he says," I wasn't born in Wyoming but I got here as fast as I could." He was one of the youngest publishers in the country at the time.
Soon, the four men plus Lee Myers of Cody founded Sage Publishing Co, Inc and bought the Cody Enterprise. This company ultimately was involved in ownership of some 10 newspapers, print shops and publications in Wyoming and Montana. Bill was still the publisher in Lander but also took an active role in management of the other properties. He had purchased an airplane and learned to fly so that he could cover the vast distances.
His specific jobs for those publishing companies were locating newspapers to buy and hiring department heads that would ultimately be trained to be publishers. Today there are 20 men and women around the country who became publishers after learning their craft from Bill and his partners.
He knows how to hire the right people and how to get them motivated to do a great job.
Things were going well. He had the satisfaction of seeing a company grow to where it had business connections in Lander, Gillette, Greybull, Cody, Green River, Lyman, Jeffrey City, Billings, Dillon, Whitefish and Columbia Falls, Mont.
Earlier in his career, Bill had discovered that most newspapers seemed to be either high-quality operations that did not make a profit or low-quality ones that made piles of money. It appeared in the industry that these two goals were mutually exclusive. Bill felt otherwise. With the help of his partners, he pioneered ways that community newspapers could achieve both goals and produce high quality local newspapers that still became solid businesses.
He has been a consistent winner of newspaper honors his entire career. His Lander newspaper, with him as editor, won more than 200 state awards and more than 50 national awards. He and his staff at the Lander paper were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1991 by U. S. Senator Al Simpson, who wrote the letter of nomination. That was for writing an expose that helped Simpson get a law passed to help aging uranium miners. Those miners were dying from lung cancer from their earlier mining years. The Lander Journal staff did a long series of articles and editorials that exposed this situation. Besides the news coverage, Sniffin, himself, had gotten Sen. Simpson involved in finding out about the cancer deaths affecting the local miners.
In the early 1980s, Bill got restless. He was part of a group whose older partners wanted to slow down their growth. All the stockholders were minority partners and Bill wanted to really be in charge. So he sold out of that company and using that money, embarked on his own career.
Now on his own, from 1982 to 1992, he and Nancy purchased four newspapers and started three tourist magazines.
He has always been an innovator. He became well known in the computer world when his newspapers were among the first in the world to use laser printing instead of photo typesetting. He also pioneered the use of recycled paper on which to print his newspapers.
Two of the most significant events in his business career occurred during this time and both involved tourism. From 1986 to 1989, he spent a considerable amount of time in Cardiff, Wales, earning a Masters in journalism from the Centre of Journalism Studies, one of the most respected institutions of its type in the world.
In 1989, Gov. Mike Sullivan named him to the Wyoming Travel Commission, where he served four years. That meant Bill was also a member of the Jackson Hole Visitor Council and founding president of the Wind River Visitors Council.
Bill is one of just two people (along with Clarene Law of Jackson) to have received both of the Wyoming Travel Industry's most prestigious awards. He was given the Bevinetto Friend of Tourism award in 1997 and the industry's highest honor, The BIG WYO award in 1999. This was in recognition of his leadership in both private industry and his efforts to improve the industry through his work on the Wyoming Travel Commission, various visitor councils, the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition.
The mid-1980s were brutal times for Wyoming and many observers thought Lander was hit harder than any other community. In response to that depression, Sniffin went to then-Mayor Del McOmie with an idea to form a new kind of economic development group. Together, they founded LEADER Corporation. They were able to locate more than 100 individuals who invested $1,000 each to help develop the local economy. That group started meeting every Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. and still meets there once a month.
During the bust of the mid-1980s. Lander had 600 empty homes and no hope for immediate recovery. He developed a program called the Vigorous Retiree Recruitment Program, which brought in scores of youthful middle-aged retirees.
He thought if 300 people moved to Lander and each brought a $20,000 per year retirement income with them it amounted to the same as attracting a $6 million annual payroll industry. Best of all, these new people became terrific contributors to the community. LEADER has an impressive track record of helping entrepreneurs and aiding the local business community.
Bill Sniffin learned the hard way about what works and what does not work in economic development in Wyoming. Although he thinks there are opportunities in attracting targeted industries to the state, he believes the number-one goal should be helping existing companies to expand.
One unique way Sniffin has been a pioneer in Wyoming is the public-private partnership concept. Two companies started by Sniffin have been recognized as among the most successful such operations in recent Wyoming history with Rocky Mountain International (with C.J. Box) and the Wyoming Visitor statewide tourist guides.
The beauty of public-private partnerships, in Sniffin's mind, is that in lightly-populated Wyoming, small businesses often do not have the resources to be large enough to provide needed services. Thus, companies need to go out of state for special needs. When the state government partners with private companies, a critical mass can be created that can also provide expanded services to everyone else in Wyoming. He sees lots of opportunities to expand this concept in the future in Wyoming.
By 1999, life was very good for the Sniffins. They had even added a newspaper in Maui to their far-flung business operations and had more than 50 people in their employ.
A couple of years earlier, during his 50th birthday party, a person asked him how it felt to have your future behind you? Bill's response was that, in his heart, he felt "my best work is ahead of me." Nobody knows if running for governor in 2002 was what he meant, but that is where he found himself back then. He finished third in the GOP primary that year.
Bill and Nancy have been active in the Holy Rosary Catholic Church for more than 40 years, both having served on the Parish Council. They both presently serve on the state board of Catholic Social Services. Bill is currently finance chairman for the parish.
In 1993, Bill published a book about Wyoming called The Best Part of America. He has published another book in 2003 titled High Altitudes, Low Multitudes: More Stories from the Best Part of America. In 2011, he published Strong Winds, Blowing Snow, Slick in Spots.
In 2012, Bill published the first coffee table book about Wyoming in five years called Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders + 33 Other Fascinating Places. It was a best seller during in the state during the 2012 holiday season.
In 1999, to the surprise of just about everyone, Nancy and Bill announced they had sold the Lander Journal and Wind River News to their newspaper colleagues in Riverton, Steve and Bob Peck and Steve's brother Chris, and their wives.
Four weeks after the sale, they found out Nancy had breast cancer. The following 18 months were very difficult. The chemotherapy was devastating to Nancy's immune system and the radiation just made things worse. She lost all her hair and suffered from infections that resulted in additional surgery. Probably her all-time low point came when she was bedridden and missed her grandson's baptism.
But now she is well and she is dedicated to helping others recover from cancer or avoid getting it in the first place. She and Bill have been on the committee presenting the Relay for Life in Fremont County since 2000.
Nancy has always been a leader in local charities. Each Christmas, she joins with other community leaders in raising money and locating food to create more than 200 food baskets to be distributed to the needy.
Nancy was presented the 2011 Jefferson Award as the outstanding volunteer in the state of Wyoming.
She and Bill were members of the Lander Bronze Roundup Committee, which raised $200,000 to create a Millennium project, which is the largest bronze sculpture in the state.
Bill has founded one of the state's most progressive Public Relations and Ad Agencies called Wyoming Inc., which was sold in 2010 to Joanna and Jared Kail.
On Jan. 2, 2008, Sniffin announced the sale of his last newspaper, the Winner, S. D. Advocate, which he and his wife had owned for 23 years.
Bill and Nancy are proud of their four children and nine grandchildren:
Alicia Haulman is married and lives in Montrose, Colorado, with her husband Denny and three children, Mallory, Mae and Royal. She is employed as a registered nurse there with a home health agency. Her husband is production manager of the newspaper in Montrose.
Shelli Johnson is married and lives in Lander with her husband Jerry and sons Wolf, Hayden and Finis. She is retired from being CEO of Yellowstone International and publisher of the Yellowstone Journal, 99 Things to Do in Yellowstone Country and operator of the Internet domain yellowstonepark.com. Jerry is a physical education instructor in the Lander school system.
Amber Hollins is married and lives in Allen, Tex., with her husband Craig and daughters Daylia and Emery and son Braley. Amber is presently a homemaker and Craig is an engineer with Ericsson Cell Phone Company.
Son Michael has been a chef among other projects and currently lives in Casper.