Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield announced Friday that he will not seek a third term in office, even though he is eligible to run after winning a lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s term limits law for elected officials.
Though he said he offered no specific explanation about his reasons for retiring from office, he did say he wants to spend time with his wife, Gayla, who he referred to as the “love of my life” during his announcement at the State Capitol Building.
Maxfield, 69, has served two terms as secretary of state, first elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. Before that, he served two terms as state auditor, elected in 1998 and 2002. He first ran for Wyoming public office in 1994, falling to Diana Ohman in the Republican primary for secretary of state.
Maxfield first worked for many years in Wyoming as director of the WMCA in Casper, then directed the Wyoming Recreation Commission (1987-89) and the Wyoming Dept. of Commerce (1989-94). He also headed the Wyoming branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In an interview Tuesday, Maxfield said he will miss working with the people of Lovell and Big Horn County, noting that he has formed an excellent partnership with the local community.
“It’s hard. This summer will be my last Lovell parade,” he said. “I’ve been coming up there for more than 20 years.
“My partnership with Lovell really stands out as one of the things I’m sure going to think of when I look back at my time in state government.”
Maxfield first came to Lovell and North Big Horn County some 27 years ago when he was director of the Wyoming Recreation Commission.
“The thing that got me was that I was surprised that people were surprised to see an official from Cheyenne up there,” he said. “That drove my career in state government. I didn’t want to be tethered in Cheyenne but made it a point to get out to every community.
“On state boards and commissions a lot of time my having been there made the difference in whether a project was funded or not. Sometimes a project would be ranked low by the staff and I was able to do a sale job to the rest of the board because I’d been there. I would stick my head down a manhole and come back with information.”
Health and safety projects have always interested Maxfield, and he has helped the State Loan and Investment Board fund new equipment for the Lovell Volunteer Fire Dept., Big Horn County Search and Rescue and North Big Horn Hospital.
He said people in Cheyenne have a hard time realizing that the Lovell Fire Dept. and the county search and rescue squad covers a 100-mile radius, much of it mountainous.”
Maxfield noted a number of accomplishments the Secretary of State’s Office has made during his seven-plus years in office.
“I’m very proud of the fact that I’m the first secretary who has taken on the fraud issue and has gone to the legislature to get laws changed to get Wyoming’s good name back,” he said. “We were one of three states where people could launder money and get false documents for citizenship. In my first year legislation was passed and in the first 12 months we dissolved 7,000 shell corporations.
“There are no more drop boxes. That was happening all over the state. Money was coming in from the Russian Mafia or from Turkey. You could get a drop box for a corporation.”
Maxfield and his staff have greatly modernized the secretary of state’s office to match up with new technology.
“I’m proud of our nationally recognized website,” he said. “We were able to put a statewide voter guide on the website. A person can look up any candidate, any PAC or any company giving money to a candidate. We now have a wide open, transparent election system.”
The office has also worked to tie together all 23 counties by computer so a person cannot vote once in one county and again in another.
“We have some of the best election laws and practices in the country,” he said.
Also in the area of fraud, the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office recently held a series of seminars about how to avoid scams through false securities, working with local police departments and banks.
“When we hear about a scam we publicize it,” Maxfield said. “It’s important to inform people, and there’s an 800 number to call. People can look up a company and see if there is a lawsuit, bankruptcy or whether the company is under investigation. I’m proud of the strides we’ve made.”
A special relationship
Lovell will always have a special place in his heart, he said, noting that he is the only state official to announce his candidacy in Lovell, which he has done numerous times.
He said the people of Lovell and all of Big Horn County have a special place in his heart and in Gayla’s.
“We feel like family, we really do,” he said. “We consider it to be our second home base. It’s bitter sweet that this will be our last parade.”
But family comes first, Maxfield said.
“I need and want to spend time with Gayla,” he said. “The time is now.”
By David Peck