Nov 2, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff WriterFremont County Commission chairman Doug Thompson feels he has the knowledge to help with the local budgeting process as Fremont County, like many other entities, braces for revenue shortfalls.
"I am running because we have some issues," the 64-year-old Jeffrey City-area rancher said in a recent interview. "There is a declining revenue scenario, and I believe my experience will be essential to keep county services to our citizens."
Thompson is seeking his fourth consecutive term as a commissioner after defeating fellow GOP opponent Jennifer McCarty in the August primary election by 1 percent.
"I never take an election for granted, and just from the closeness of the race, there's some issues that need to be addressed," Thompson said.
The incumbent will face off with Lander Independent candidate Nathan Maxon in the Nov. 6 general election for the District 5 seat.
District 5 covers much of the county's southern portion including a section of Lander, Red Canyon, Atlantic City and Jeffrey City and a swath that stretches north to encompass east Riverton.
Thompson is in his ninth year as commission chairman and 12th year in service. In his tenure, he has promoted long-range planning, prioritizing spending and efficiency in government.
"I would say the hallmark of my service is accountability with budgets," he said. "I know how county government works. I also understand the people involved, which is beneficial especially in a declining revenue situation ... when you need to separate the needs from the wants."
Accomplishments the commissioner is proud of include a pavement management plan that looks at every county road, and the development of the Capital Improvement Maintenance Planning Long-term effort also known as CIMPL.
"CIMPL was instituted so that our capital improvement and maintenance planning was five years out," Thompson said. "Now we are trying to use the process and combine it with (State Land and Investment Board) and local general funding to leverage other sources of funding."
Thompson hopes to see the federal planning revisions for the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service implemented in the next two to three years.
He said he often is painted as the "grazing and energy guy" when it comes to public land use, but he feels he considers all groups, including sportsmen and conservationists.
"I try to understand every economic opportunity for our county," he explained.
Thompson said he looks to maximize revenue and benefits for everyone. He talked about a recent bike race held at Johnny Behind the Rocks near Lander and how it could be a possible revenue source for the area that could be hindered by federal planning such as sage grouse regulations.
This is why he chose to learn about the federal government process and keep up on laws and regulations.
Thompson called it "astonishing" that his challenger for the District 5 seat believes the federal government doesn't affect citizens.
"To me, that's a shocking ignoring of facts when 85 percent of our county is federally administered," he said.
In an interview last month, Maxon said it seemed Thompson's focus was on the federal government.
Thompson said knowing the process allows officials to hold the federal government's "feet to the fire" when it comes to issues affecting the county.
"Fremont County is on the cutting edge of influencing federal planning," he said. "It's benefiting the county and the state."
Although he is generally "not a big tax and spending guy," Thompson said he supports the proposed 1 percent sales and use tax.
"I haven't really supported proposed taxes in the past," he said. "However, this one focuses on roads, infrastructure, water, and I can support it."
He said Fremont County roads are deteriorating "faster than we can fix them."
"It costs over a million dollars a mile to replace a road," Thompson said. "An overlay is at least half as much."
Thompson said if voters approve the tax next month, he intends to hold county and municipalities accountable.
"Taxpayers have to be assured it will not be used for pet projects," he added.
Thompson would like to continue doing what he's done while in office: holding people accountable, maximizing dollars, and offering and maintaining a respectful forum to conduct county business.
"We're there to listen," he said of the commission.
Thompson said he does his homework when trying to address an issue, adding that he has a proven record of being efficient and making fact-based decisions.
"I try to find win-wins and what is best for the citizens," he said. "When I vote no, there is a reason I do it. I try to focus on specific issues and give specific solutions."
One example is the solid waste disposal management situation. Thompson is the liaison to the board.
Some of his suggestions include utilizing communities and having volunteers help man the transfer stations. He talked about building an adequate closing fund for the landfill and reducing tipping fees.
"I know it will have to be community based because one size doesn't fit all," Thompson said.
He believes he recognizes the county's diversity economically, culturally and socially.
"I understand the uniqueness of various parts of the county, and I consider it when making a decision," he said. "We're not a monolithic county, and I understand the components, and a lot of that filters back to my experience. I also know the history behind things, having lived in Fremont County for 50 years."
Reflecting on his time in office so far, he said his biggest disappointment was a court ordering commissioners to serve specific districts rather than at-large.
"I want to be held accountable by all," Thompson said. "I will always vote for all, not just those in my district."
Thompson serves on boards related to the National Association of County Officials and the Wyoming County Commissioners Association.
His other involvement includes participation on the Fremont County Cattleman's Association, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the Wyoming State Grazing Board --Lander District, the Policy Analysis Center for Western Public Lands and the Wyoming School Boards Association.
Thompson is a Riverton High School graduate and holds a bachelor's degree in business and mathematics education from the University of Washington. He and his wife of 44 years, Cindy, own and operate the family ranch, Myers Land and Cattle Company, 17 miles west of Jeffrey City. The couple has three grown children.
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