Apr 11, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff WriterA longtime state legislator has announced his retirement.
Seven-term Republican State Rep. Del McOmie of Lander will not run again.
"It will be 14 years, and I just decided it's time," he said. "I want to spend more time with my family. The Legislature takes up a lot more time than people realize."
His replacement will be elected Nov. 6. McOmie's last day on the job is Dec. 31.
McOmie, 76, has represented House District 54 since he was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives in the November 1998 general election. The legislative district consists of Lander proper and surrounding rural areas.
"I've really enjoyed working with him, and he's going to be missed," said state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander. "Me and Delbert have had our disagreements, but it's always been civil."
"He is a fine gentleman and truly cares," Case said.
McOmie is chairman of the Select Committee on Tribal Relations as well as the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee, which successfully sponsored a bill in this year's legislative session that authorizes the hunting of gray wolves.
McOmie sponsored a bill this year that allows Wyoming drivers to increase their speed up to 10 mph above the posted speed limit to pass a slower-moving car on a two-way highway.
His legislative tenure also includes serving on the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.
But it's McOmie's tenacious hard work and devotion to Wyoming's education system that are noteworthy for many constituents.
"Del is constantly asking questions when faced with making important decisions affecting education," said Wyoming Indian schools superintendent Michelle Hoffman."Every time I have called or e-mailed Del, he always makes sure he contacts me back within a short period of time."
"He is one of the most approachable representatives I have ever worked with," Hoffman said.
McOmie served on the Education Committee from 2000 to 2010, and he was chairman for four of those years.
He chaired the Select Committee on School Facilities for three years and the Select Committee on School Recalibration for one year. He has also been a member of the Wyoming Education Planning and Coordination Council and the Community College Planning Task Force.
"During his tenure as chair of the House Education Committee, Rep. McOmie strongly advocated for vocational and career (and) technical training for students," Wind River superintendent Diana Clapp said. "He maintains his commitment to career (and) technical training even as the federal government moved away from supporting these programs for youth."
Locally, McOmie and other legislators helped School District 1 obtain funding for the new Lander Valley High School facility on Baldwin Creek Road.
He's helped iron out issues with Lander's graduation rate being affected by student inmates at the county jail who receive educational services for the school district.
"I'm going to miss it because I enjoy it," McOmie said. "I will miss being involved and all the knowledge you gain and knowing how the system works."
McOmie secured his most recent office term after defeating challenger and political newcomer Ryan Jones, of Lander, with a 66-percent win during the August 2010 primary election.
After three terms as Lander Mayor from 1975 to 1987, McOmie transitioned into state politics, running for Case's representative seat in the 1998 election.
Case was running unopposed for the Senate District 25 seat that he still holds today.
"We recruited Del to run," Case said, referring to himself and the late state Rep. Harry Tipton.
Case recalled a newspaper advertisement for the trio of men that consisted of a photograph taken of their bald heads.
"It said, 'Vote for the bald guys.' We had a lot of fun with that," he said.
That year, McOmie ran on a platform that focused on small businesses, economic development and job diversification. In an interview with the Lander Journal (then the Wyoming State Journal), McOmie said his goals included adequate funding for education, resolving the differences between multiple uses of public lands and conservation and stable revenue sources for Wyoming communities.
McOmie defeated opponent Ed Lee by 254 votes in the election.
The Wyoming Highway Department retiree is a longtime Lander resident, graduating from Fremont County Vocational High School (now LVHS). He co-founded the economic development group, LEADER, and he is a Lander Valley Education Foundation's Alumni Hall of Famer.
In 2008, he earned the Von Dahl Champion of Education Award, which is given to individuals who have substantially affected education in Wyoming.
"I believe Del McOmie has been such a successful representative, because he doesn't just represent his party when in Cheyenne, he works toward the common good of all residents in Fremont County," Hoffman said. "For this I am grateful. He will be sadly missed in his representation."
Clapp said McOmie brought a balance of common sense to issues that will be "sincerely missed" as he retires from the Legislature.
"Despite difficult days and transitions in education brought about by litigation and federal reforms, Rep. McOmie leads with civility and commitment to the children of Wyoming," she said.
"I am hopeful we have a replacement with as big of a heart and a caring attitude as Del has demonstrated," she said. "I wish him all the best."
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