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John Philp

Mar 27, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

The unassuming rancher from Lysite built an outstanding public career

John Philp made a good impression on people.

No doubt that is why an unassuming sheep rancher from remote east Fremont County could command impressive vote totals at the ballot box every four years in the 1970s and 1980s when it was time to elect our Fremont County commissioners.

Philp won every one of those elections in which he was a candidate, long before the days when the county had been chopped up into commission districts. Back then, a county commissioner had to draw support from everywhere, not just the vicinity where he or she lived.

He was born in Shoshoni and lived most of his life in Lysite, neither of which provided a large voter base. In a geographically enormous county, where what few real population centers exist are far away from where you live and work, getting enough votes to emerge victorious on a busy commission ballot can be a pretty high hurdle.

But John Philp cleared it each time he tried, elected in 1976, 1980 and 1984, carrying precincts in Riverton, Lander and rural zones from Jeffrey City to Dubois. In his home precinct, he was revered, carrying the 1976 vote there 60-0.

He was what he was, meaning he didn't put on airs or effect postures and mannerisms that were phony just to get votes. Instead, he presented himself to voters authentically as a working man who knew about land and livestock, a war veteran with a distinguished record, a well-read man conversant in many topics large and small, a confident but unpretentious man with good sense, a friendly man with a fine sense of humor and a genuine twinkle in his eye, a good husband and father, and a capable steward of the public trust who had proved himself on more localized boards for years before seeking the countywide office.

That's how it's done. That's how you make a good impression on people. That's how you get elected from a sheep ranch in Lysite to the highest office in Fremont County.

John Philp's funeral is Friday. He died a few days ago at age 92. He will be remembered fondly and missed sorely by his family and others closest to him.

But he deserves as well to be remembered by all citizens of Fremont County. The same qualities that engendered strong sentiments among those closest to him earned wider esteem from those who worked with him in government. John Philp's distinction is well deserved, and his public legacy is assured.