A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

A loss to the city

Apr 9, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Bill Urbigkit's knowledge and experience won't easily be replaced

This office notes the death of Bill Urbigkit with sadness.

Claimed by death at just 55 years old, he was a familiar and consistent reference point for our newsroom for two and a half decades.

From one mayor to the next, through the revolving door of the city council members, and across the changing roster of department heads, deputies and assorted city personnel, he was the go-to guy for all things municipal.

When a question about a point of city government, city infrastructure, city operations or modern city history came up, how many times did someone in our newsroom utter the words "call Bill Urbigkit"? Too many to count.

When a new reporter was taken to City Hall for introductions, Bill Urbigkit was the indispensable man to know. No matter who else was there to offer a handshake and a smile, the visitation simply wasn't complete until it included Bill Urbigkit. He shepherded many a Ranger reporter through some intricacy or another related to how things ran in Riverton.

There were times when those reporters raised issues that city government leaders would rather not have been raised, asked questions that they would prefer not to have answered, and wrote things they wished we hadn't. Certainly there were times our newspaper ran afoul of Bill Urbigkit during his long tenure.

But here's what we learned about him. The aforementioned occasions were inevitable, but he was, at his foundation, a good-natured man who did not hold a grudge. In turn, it was hard not to treat him the same way.

These are our recollections. Those who had reason to deal with Bill Urbigkit in his official capacities didn't always get the results they wanted or the answers they sought. No one can operate in the public sphere for as long as he did without leaving some constituents displeased. It is unavoidable. We think it is accurate to say, however, that he acted through a well-directed sense of what he thought was best for Riverton, and from a sense of loyalty to those who employed him at City Hall.

He was a bright man, with an excellent sense of humor. During what turned out to be the final weeks of his life, he was interviewed by Ranger staff writer Alejandra Silva. After speaking courageously and optimistically about his recovery, he asked her to deliver a message to someone he knew at the newspaper office.

"Tell him I feel like Gregor Samsa," he requested, insisting that the person back at the office would appreciate the reference.

He was referring to the central character in Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," the story of the man who wakes one morning and finds that his body has been transformed -- in a decidedly unpleasant way.

No offense intended, but this was the sort of reference that people in local municipal government typically do not make.

But Bill Urbigkit did. And it was simultaneously funny and poignant.

Now he is transformed one final time, his struggles behind him. It is a loss and a disappointment. He had more to give, and he would have given it willingly.

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