News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
County incumbents, challengers eye budget
Oct 17, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Two Republican commissioners face challenges from independent candidates.
All four candidates running for open spots on the Fremont County Commission agreed that local budget issues will be prominent in the coming years.
"The budgeting processes of the county is probably the main job of the commission," incumbent Republican Doug Thompson said during a debate last month at Central Wyoming College.
He described the work county representatives have done in recent years to prioritize budget items so the process of making cuts is well-defined when revenues fall. Incumbent Republican Pat Hickerson said those priorities have guided the county to maintain staffing levels and public services over the past decade.
"I think we've done well with some departments," Hickerson said. "Other departments have grown more than I'd like."
With tax revenues from gas production likely to be down this year, Hickerson said he would like to identify and eliminate inefficiencies within Fremont County government.
"We'll have to figure out places to cut," Hickerson said. "That's going to be our biggest challenge. I hope we can figure out ways to keep our efficiency and services, but just do it at a lower cost."
Independent candidate Stephanie Kessler, who is challenging Hickerson for his District 4 commission seat, acknowledged that commissioners would face difficult funding decisions in the coming months.
"We are going to have to ... prioritize amongst services," Kessler said.
She called for modernization of the county's internal systems and said increased coordination would lead to a more efficient government.
"We need to get departments coordinating more with each other to share some common processes instead of duplicating those," Kessler said. "We have to learn how to work smarter."
She also said officials should be more "savvy" when it comes to oil and gas development locally, suggesting the use of new technologies on fields that already have been developed by oil companies.
"The infrastructure is already there," Kessler said. "If we can help develop ways to go back to our oil fields, that's a much better lucrative source of funding than natural gas, which tends to have a cyclical boom-bust cycle."
Nathan Maxon, Thompson's Independent challenger in District 5, said some controls and regulations are necessary to avoid that up-and-down economy that has prevailed in Wyoming in the past. He said the county could be involved in planning for a large field to be developed soon in the Lysite area.
"That'll bring great revenue for the county," Maxon said. "Let's take the initiative. ... Let's think about our future more than five years ahead."