1. (250 words) Why are you a candidate for election to the House representing District 41 and what qualifications make you the best choice for this office?
I am running because I wake up every day thinking about how we can make Wyoming the best it can be: a state where families can raise their children and make a living wage; a state folks want to move to and make their home; a state where our budget reflects our values; a state where the education and future of our children is placed at the top of our priorities; a state where everyone has access to affordable, quality healthcare; a state where the people of Wyoming can receive the services they need for not only their basic needs but to achieve their goals.
As a 25-year educator I see every day how the ways we have fallen short of the vision described above affects our children and families. I serve on the Board of Directors for the Wyoming Education Association and I am the representative for Wyoming educators and students on the Board of Directors for the National Education Association (NEA). In addition, I am in my 3rd year as an elected member of the five-person NEA Program and Budget Committee that serves the NEA’s three million members. I have a tremendous amount of experience creating and managing complex budgets, identifying responsible priorities in times of declining revenues and working with others to make practical decisions to accomplishing ambitious goals on behalf of constituents.
I love Wyoming and I am someone who can help us stop falling short and achieve the bright future that is within our grasp.
2. (650 words) What are the top three issues the state faces and how to you propose to address each?
I believe the top three issues facing Wyoming right now are:
a. Diversifying Wyoming’s Economy
b. Expanding Medicaid and Restoring funding to the Dept. of Health.
c. Fully funding public education
- Diversifying Wyoming’s Economy:
I unequivocally support finding ways to diversify our economy. I think it is derelict of us to have placed almost all our proverbial eggs in the basket of a single, volatile industry and to continue to put all the pressure for our economic stability and wellbeing on our abundant but non-renewable commodities. It has been proven time and time again that paying lip service to economic diversification while keeping ourselves locked in the boom and bust cycle does not work and the consequence of leaving our displaced workers with no viable options because the cost of energy and has gone down is shortsighted and irresponsible.
We have an opportunity to be a leader in renewable energy and we should be incentivizing that opportunity rather than doing the opposite by consider new taxes on wind. We should be investing in solar energy and finding other ways to use coal. We should be courting industries such as technology with business incentives to locate or relocate here without “giving away the farm.” We should be doubling down on industries that are already strong like recreation and tourism and we should attend to incentivizing the kinds of communities that the Gen Y and Millennial generation will be attracted to. Overall, we need to look at and talk about multiple ideas and work together as a legislature to do what is best for all citizens of Wyoming.
This action is not only long overdue but it is completely irresponsible for us not to expand Medicaid and refuse millions of dollars that inevitably provide necessary services to Wyoming citizens who are in need the most of assistance while easing pressure on the state budget. We need to ensure that every citizen in Wyoming has access to affordable healthcare, as most of us are all just one serious illness away from potential financial catastrophe.
This would be my first order of business as a legislator. I would work tirelessly to help garner the support to get Medicaid expansion legislation passed through education and by bringing personal stories to help sway my respected legislative colleagues who don’t understand the necessity of this action. I would mobilize citizens to aid in this task.
- Fully Funding Public Education:
The Wyoming Constitution requires that we fully fund public education. The cuts that are being made are a devastating blow to the strides we have made in recent years.
We need to look at our state’s priorities and invest in education so that all students in Wyoming have a high quality education that will help them achieve their post-graduation goals. It is imperative that we prepare our students for life after High School in whatever field they choose.
Accomplishing this needs to include increased access to Career and Tech-Ed programs including dual enrollment, access to the Fine and Performing Arts, and access to more Foreign Languages and programs like I.B. and A.P.
Adequately investing in public education also must include continued funding for Special Education so that the highly qualified staff and administrators required to provide appropriate instruction and services in this crucial area are provided for. We also need to put pressure on the Federal Government to hold up their end of the Special Ed funding agreement to relieve some of the financial pressure placed on the state.