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Whiteman leaving commission seat, effective Wednesday

Aug 4, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County Commission Keja Whiteman is resigning.

In a letter to fellow county board members Tuesday, Whiteman stated that her resignation takes effect Wednesday.

With the lone Democrat, American Indian and woman on the commission departing, four Republican men will pick her successor from three candidates to be nominated by the Fremont County Democratic Party.

Whiteman represents a district largely on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

"Due to a series of events within the community ... I need to step down to refocus my time and attention," Whiteman said in her letter of resignation.

She said some of the events she mentioned affected her directly, while others affected her indirectly.

"All have had significant impact on my personal life and perspectives," she wrote.

She did not specify the events to which she was referring.

"In time I hope the communities can come together and honor the golden rule of treating each others as they want to be treated," Whiteman's letter concluded.

She was at Tuesday's regular commission meeting in Lander, but she was unavailable for further comment by press time.

"We accepted her resignation with regret," Commission chairman Doug Thompson said in an interview.

The county board sent a letter to the local Democratic Party on Tuesday notifying party leaders of the vacancy.

The party has 20 days to solicit interest from candidates and interview them before recommending three to the board, Thompson said.

After receiving the nominees, the commission has 20 days to decide on the new commissioner.

Under this timeline, it could be mid-September before a new commissioner is appointed.

The appointee's term would last through 2016. The winner of that year's election would serve a two-year term until 2018, when a new four-year term would start for the District 1 seat.

Whiteman, the current commission vice chairwoman, has represented Commission District 1 for nearly nine years. The district covers Ethete, Arapahoe, Fort Washakie, Crowheart and most of the Wind River Indian Reservation south of the Wind River.

Whiteman won re-election in 2014 to her third four-year term.

Her resignation comes a day after commissioners set mill levy rates for the current fiscal year, the last task in their months-long work to create a budget.

The county board's work to find a financially sustainable solution for Fremont County Emergency Medical Services also reached what might be its final phase at the same time as Whiteman is stepping down. After years of discussion and study, the county board decided Tuesday to enter negotiations with Guardian Flight to have the company take over the ambulance department.

Previous appointments

Fremont County commissioners have appointed people to fill two other elected offices vacated in recent years. They picked Michael Bennett in 2013 to be the county attorney after his predecessor, Brian Varn, resigned, and Kristi H. Green to be clerk of district court in May 2014 when Katie Brodie Meredith resigned.

Bennett lost a primary election in 2014 and resigned a few days before his term was out at the end of that year.

Green won an election that year, earning her first four-year term in office.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly said the four commissioners left on the county board after Keja Whiteman left were white. Commissioner Larry Allen, in an interview, said he identifies as a non-enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and has American Indian heritage. The correction was made Sept. 2.

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