Taking your turn at the local level

This is the time of year when local citizens play the wait-and-see game for local office. It always seems as if there will be no candidates for town council, but what’s really happening is that prospective candidates wait to see who else in running, as if to hedge their bet or perhaps to “run against” someone they don’t want to see in office.

So as usual, with only two days to go in the Primary Election filing period, only one person – incumbent councilman Brian Dickson – has filed for the town council in Lovell. And yet two years ago, Mayor Bruce Morrison had three challengers for the Primary Election at this stage.

In some cases there are only so many citizens to go around. Barbara Phillips used to joke that in Frannie, “we just take our turn” on the town council. And there seems to be a lot of attrition on the smaller town councils, with many council members not completing their terms.

So here we are, two days before the deadline, and as of this writing (Wednesday afternoon) there were still eight incumbent council members in north Big Horn County who had not filed for re-election. There are fresh challengers in Byron and Frannie, however.

This is the “quiet election” locally, the year we elect a president of the United States. While that important election stirs up the political talk nationally every four years – and stirs and stirs and stirs ad nauseam – we are midway through the four-year terms for Wyoming’s top five elected officials, Big Horn County officials, except for one commission seat, and Big Horn County mayors.

Of interest statewide are the races for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives featuring re-election bids by Sen. John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis, but because the Democratic Party is so weak in Republican-dominated Wyoming, the Democrats are hardly putting up a fight. As of Wednesday, the only Democrat running against Sen. Barrasso is perennial fringe candidate Al Hamburg of Torrington. (He used to bill himself as “Devil Al from Hell, Wyoming.) Sen. Barrasso does have one unknown GOP challenger, Thomas Bleming from Lusk, a man who has made national headlines for his reportedly anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi views. Just what we need in Wyoming.

Fittingly, Barrasso labeled Bleming’s views “disturbing and wrong.”

Running for office at the town level is more public service than politics, with most candidates merely wanting to serve their community rather than play the political game, although there have been a few axes to grind over the years.

So here’s hoping that the ballots will fill up by the end of the week and that some good, caring, quality people will step up to serve, especially those who already have some experience under their belts.

This is where a person can truly make a difference: at the local level. While people nationwide are becoming increasingly frustrated, even jaded, in regard to the gridlock and politics in Washington, at the town and county level there is still a strong tradition of working together for the greater good of the community.

We are grateful there are good people willing to serve.

–David Peck