The Big Horn County commissioners Monday afternoon appointed John Hyde of Lovell as the new commissioner to replace the late Thomas “Scotty” Hinman.
Hyde will be sworn in at the start of the regular commissioner meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21.
The Big Horn County Republican Central Committee interviewed 16 candidates last Thursday and narrowed the list to three to submit to the commissioners for appointment. The commissioners interviewed the three — Hyde, Stanley Jones of Otto and Richard Russell of Basin — Monday morning before deliberating and making the appointment.
Prior to each interview Chairman Jerry Ewen thanked each candidate for his interest and congratulated them for getting to the final phase.
The candidates were asked the same questions and given an opportunity to ask questions of the commissioners.
After the appointment, Ewen said, “For the public, I want to say we are pleased once again (that) the process worked. We were presented with some good choices. It was not an easy decision.” He said each candidate would have brought his own skill set and dedication to the position, noting, “Each one had a passion to take the work one and we appreciate that.”
Commissioner Keith Grant said, “We were very fortunate in the candidates we had. It was not an easy decision.”
The candidates were asked why they were interested in the position, what past experiences they had that would be helpful, whether they had the time to commit to the position, what they felt the duties were for the position and whether they would recommend any changes and how they would implement those changes.
Hyde is currently serving the county as the emergency management coordinator and is a retired Wyoming Game and Fish game warden. Earlier this year he announced his retirement effective July 8 as the EMC. The county had just begun the process to find a new coordinator.
Ewen said Hyde likely will not be able to continue as the EMC through his official retirement date because of the appointment as commissioner. He said the commissioners would address the position once Hyde is sworn in.
Hyde also retired from his position as human resources coordinator for the county, to which Carl Meyer was appointed.
During his interview Monday Hyde said, “My reasons for retiring were to free up some time to do some other things I wanted to do. It’s not been an easy decision, but one I’ve considered for a long time, not just after the immediacy of this position. No one wants to jump in under these circumstances. As you know from my resignation meeting this is something I’ve considered. I want to live up to the expectation that others have of me and that I have of myself.”
He said he always told his kids that good people should be available for public service. “I have a future pretty free ahead of me, so to be true to myself, I felt I should at least put my name in the hat and offer my services.”
Hyde said he believes his whole life experience will be a benefit. He worked 35 years for the State of Wyoming with the Game and Fish. “I’ve literally worked in every county in Wyoming and lived and raised family in nine counties,” he said, adding that those experiences have allowed him to learn how things work in different counties and what works and what doesn’t work.
He said through his state job and the county job he has worked with every imaginable agency, county, state and federal, as well as landowner groups.
All that being said, Hyde added, “It’s relationships that carry the day. I’ve learned how to communicate with people.”
Grant said the county is made up of about 84 percent public lands and asked what Hyde’s position was on public lands, asking, “Will you work to protect our resources?”
Hyde said that one of the biggest concerns the county has is the regulatory authority federal agencies have over the county.
“We have to work with them to make sure they don’t take over management responsibilities. I’m well aware how federal agencies work. I love public lands because they are available to the people. It is something that interests me. It requires a balance of what they are after and what you need and hopefully people can come together and work together.”
Ewen said the county at times has been at odds with goals of the Game and Fish. “Are you OK with that?” he asked.
Hyde said, “I think my background is a plus. I am a wildlife advocate; yet I understand the Game and Fish cannot always do what the public wants. When I was a game warden, I always felt my first responsibility was to the people I represent. The local people have more ‘dogs in the fight.’
As for changes, Hyde said that while he has worked for the county the past 4½ years, he does not have the knowledge and facts and figures to state whether any changes are needed.
“If you are going to prioritize, you need to get all the information you can before setting about what you are going to change. I’m sure there’s a whole lot of things I don’t know about what you guys do. I don’t have an agenda except doing the best I can.”
As for working with the other two commissioners Hyde said there needs to be cooperation and respect for the other parties involved on any board. He said there should be no animosity if ideas are shot down.
On the budget, Hyde said he supports the fair approach the commissioners have taken by asking each department to cut 6.5 percent. He said the commissioners need to be fair and equitable but said he also realizes that some things can only be cut so far.
When asked if he had the time to serve, Hyde said he understands it’s not just two meetings a month. “A lot of what you do is build relationships. I understand that’s an integral part of the job,” he said.
In concluding his interview with the commissioners, Hyde said, “This is a golden opportunity to learn from two of the best for a year and a half. Given the position and barring a catastrophic failure or something unforeseen in personal life, my intention would be to run for election.
“I have the experience and ability to do the job. Time is not going to be an issue for me and it fits in very nicely with my future plans.”
He added that he feels he has good communication skills and knowledge of all parts of the county with relationships not just in Lovell, but also in Shell, Hyattville and Burlington.
By KARLA POMEROY