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Baker must leave council seat; will reapply

Baker must leave council seat; will reapply in January

Dec 18, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The odd circumstance will leave two vacancies at the start of 2014.

While the Riverton City Council congratulated departing council member Eric Heiser as he leaves to pursue a new job in Utah, Tuesday night's regular council meeting was also the last -- for the moment, at least -- for Lars Baker, who announced his resignation from the city council for a technical reason.

The unexpected resignation is effective immediately, but Baker said he intends to apply for reappointment to the council seat next month.

In a letter to the council and mayor, Baker said the resignation puts him in a "challenging position" tied to his retirement from his full-time job with the Fremont County Weed and Pest Control District, where he has served as the supervisor since 1978.

"This is related to the fact that both the City of Riverton and Fremont County Weed and Pest are covered by the Wyoming State Retirement system," Baker read from his letter to the council and public. "State law stipulates that to retire (from Weed and Pest) I must sever all ties to any and all covered entities."

After not finding other options, Baker said it was determined this was the only way to carry out his retirement. He explained that the retirement system allows for up to 86 hours a month in part-time work to remain in another position. His position on the council did not meet that requirement.

"It was my intention that in retirement I could better fulfill my council duties," he said.

Baker said he must complete a 30-day separation requirement to qualify for state retirement benefits but then could be reappointed to the city council and continue serving the same term.

In realizing the odd circumstances, Baker said he timed his retirement now because a vacancy would be announced by the council officially on Jan. 7 at the next regular meeting, and replacements could be considered at the following council meeting on Jan. 21.

"It is imperative that the process be open in every way and that every person eligible to serve who has a desire to do so is given consideration and the best candidate be selected," he said.

In a similar way, Baker was appointed to fill a term for a departing council member seven years ago and has since been elected twice. He served on the Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees for four years prior to that.

He began working for Fremont County Weed and Pest in 1975. He said he increased the staff of that department from 2.5 people to 18 permanent employees and 30 seasonal employees.

Baker graduated with a bachelor of science degree in wildlife management and conservation from the University of Wyoming in 1967 and earned his masters in public administration from UW through a distance learning program from 1988 to 1994.

Baker's career hasn't always been in weed and pest control, however. He worked as a deputy sheriff in Albany County and as a police officer and campus police officer in Montana. He gained seven years in experience as a peace officer.

Baker confirmed his interest in serving as a council member again in 2014.

"If reappointed I will continue to do my best to study the issues and vote in the best interest of my constituents," Baker said. "If not reappointed, I will still be happy to offer my time and energy to make Riverton a great place to live."

The city plans to begin its formal process of filling both Heiser's and Baker's vacancies early in the new year.

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