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Losing Joe Meyer

Oct 11, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

It casts a sad shadow over the necessary process of finding a capable replacement

State Treasurer Joe Meyer's death leaves a hole in Wyoming state government, in more ways than one.

First, the human part of it. Meyer was one of the state's most able and experienced public officials. He had the reputation around the Capitol as the man who could get things done.

In the future, when the public service records of Wyoming public officials are listed, it will be hard to beat Joe Meyer's.

Consider the list: Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Attorney General, prosecuting attorney many years ago in Fremont County, as well has a resume full of other appointed and voluntary posts that would be impressive spread among 10 people. Meyer did it all, and Wyoming has lost him far too soon.

Next, the administrative side of it. Meyer's death creates an unusual vacancy in the state's "Big Five" elected officials.

His position wasn't up for election again until 2014, and it's now too late to have a special vote as part of this year's general election Nov. 6. So, a temporary appointment will need to be made. This is an important state office, and the process for filling it with someone likely to hold it for two years without benefit of an election makes it all the more so.

The last time something like this happened was when Trent Blankenship resigned mid-term from his elected position as Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The man appointed to replace Blankenship, Jim McBride, served a controversial tenure in the post and eventually was defeated in his own party's primary election by Cindy Hill.

Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, was governor at the time of Blankenship's departure, but he was obliged under state law to name a Republican to the position temporarily because Blankenship was a Republican. That won't be the case this time. Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, will have a full political affinity with his choice to replace Meyer. Apparently he will come in the end of the process, after a field of candidates has been narrowed.

Will the governor choose someone with an eye toward launching a long-term political career of the sort Meyer had, positioning that person to run for a full term in 2014 as an experienced incumbent? Or will he opt for the "caretaker" model and choose someone who will do no harm, steer the ship of the treasurer's office capably but with a low profile and no expectation of seeking the seat in 2014?

It is to Wyoming's misfortune that such questions of political strategy must be considered in the shadow of Joe Meyer's loss. But he knew as well as anyone how things work in government and elections, and it is an unavoidable and necessary part of Wyoming's constitutional government that careful and deliberate consideration be given to Meyer's replacement without losing sight of the sad occasion for it.

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