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Meyer had chances, but wanted to stay in Wyo, mourners told

Oct 21, 2012 - By Trevor Brown, MCT News Service

In the fall of 1978, Joe Meyer was offered the chance of a lifetime.

His lifelong friend, Dick Cheney, had just been elected to the U.S. Senate, and Cheney wanted Meyer to become his chief of staff.

But Meyer, who was 37 years old at the time and not far removed from his tenure as deputy Fremont County Attorney in Lander, rejected the offer that could have landed him firmly on the national political stage. Instead, he became Wyoming Attorney General, State Auditor and State Treasurer.

Cheney, who went on to become vice president of the nation, said Friday at Meyer's funeral that he was shocked when he learned of Meyer's decision.

But he also understood.

"He said, 'Dick, I'll never leave Wyoming," Cheney said. "He said he wanted to be involved in public life and public service, but he said, 'My future lies in Wyoming, and I want to be here for the state and the people of Wyoming.'"

Cheney, current and former state leaders, friends and family of the longtime state official shared their memories Friday during a memorial service at Cheyenne Hills Church to say goodbye for a final time to Meyer, who died Oct. 6.

He was 71.

Meyer died of cancer near the middle of his second term as state treasurer.

His nearly 40 years of work for the state also included working for the Legislative Service Office, becoming the longest serving attorney general in state history and being elected Wyoming secretary of state for two terms.

But before all of that, he and Cheney were friends growing up through high school in Casper and college at the University of Wyoming.

Cheney shared his memories of their early days and when they roomed together in a small one-bedroom apartment in Laramie.

"Joe was in charge of hauling out the garbage," Cheney said. "Which meant, of course, that at the end of the year there was a very large pile of garbage."

But Cheney said Meyer remained a cherished friend. And he said Wyoming ultimately benefited from Meyer's decision to stay in the state.

Former Gov. Mike Sullivan agreed.

Sullivan, a Democrat, said he was nervous when he approached Meyer, a Republican, to be his attorney general.

"I didn't know if he'd be willing to risk a promising political future by signing on to an untested Democratic governor," Sullivan said. "But he was willing to take on that risk, and I think that reflects his courage."

Sullivan said that courage, along with loyalty and passion, were Meyer's trademark characteristics during his tenure in state government.

Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Meyer was well known for his intellect, deep knowledge of state government and strong opinions.

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