Term: Four years, no term limits
Who can vote: All registered Albany County voters (including Laramie and Rock River residents)
Salary: $30,000 per year
Benefits: Health and retirement benefits; no office space
Others serving: Tim Chesnut (D) and Heber Richardson (R) each have two years left in their terms.
What are your qualifications for office? Include two specific reasons that motivate you to run.
Mary Byrnes (D): I listen, build consensus, find resolution and solution through discussion of facts, data, science, within the law and with appropriate balance of compromise, with open meetings and transparent decisions. My background as Wyoming Public Service Commissioner, energy outreach deputy director for the UW School of Energy Resources, senior economist to the Wyoming State Legislature, Peace Corps volunteer, and hydrologist to the state of Wyoming monitoring the Wyoming/Colorado Compact of the Laramie River has prepared me to deliver solutions to challenging situations that will lead to a sustainable economy and environment for Albany County. I wish to serve this beautiful county.
Peter Calderon (R): My qualifications for office include my education in learning how to manage public affairs, resources, and the decision-making process in successful government institutions. I am a 2013 graduate from the University of Wyoming majoring in Political Science. I completed my Master’s program from the University of Arizona in International Security this year. One motivation to run for office is my new home in the county nine miles outside city limits. I have already experienced first-hand challenges rural resident’s face in the county. Secondly, it has been a long-term goal of mine to serve in public office and improve my community.
Christopher M. Dixon (R): As someone new to the political world, I would have to say that my two strongest qualifications for running for office are my daughter and son. They are the motivation behind my wanting to better our community as a whole, both Albany County and the City of Laramie. They are the reason why I sit on the Parks, Tree, and Recreation Advisory Board. How can I justify my own personal complaints while doing nothing about them? Doing nothing is a poor excuse.
Terri Jones (R): Wyoming born, Albany County raised and educated, I have been engaged in the Albany County Community for many years. Albany County is my home and backyard; the safe keeping of our citizens and resources are of great importance to me. Attending County Commissioner, County Planning Board and City Council meetings (prior to considering elected office), has given me insight into the workings of our local governments. Living in the county and owning a business, I understand how over regulation and increased fees are strangling our growth, economy and incentives for new business. Decision making must be prudent, working within the law and current science.
Jerry M. Kennedy (R): I have served three terms as County Commissioner. I live in Northern Albany County and have all my life. I run a cattle ranch as well as Big Game Outfitting operation. I am a member of Sybille Volunteer Fire Dept. I worked as a fireguard for BLM for 47 years, member of NRA, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wyoming Outfitters Association, Masonic Lodge, Stock Growers, Farm Bureau. I understand the needs of the residents. I have enjoyed serving as County Commissioner in the past. I would like to see all the County offices working together as a team.
Karl McCraken (R): I have been involved in Laramie since moving here in the early 1980’s. First to manage a CPA Firm, then working for Laramie’s largest private employer, then starting my own firm, then going to Insitu, Inc. then to back to Foster’s, Inc. While doing this I spent over four years on City Council and LEDC liaison, was Chamber President, was President of the Wyoming Territorial Prison and Old West Park. In addition I was on the board of directors of three newspapers. Most of my background is in accounting/finance with a great emphasis in business growth, hospitality and governmental consulting.
Thomas Mullan (R): As a small business owner in Laramie WY I offer many years of common sense business experience. I have considerable experience with budgeting, communications and to a large degree personal management and time management. I bring to the position a familiarity with some local political issues and in a small degree some legal knowledge. I am honest in my dealings with my fellow man and believe in clear-minded thoughtful management. As a resident in the county raising a family I have a particular interest in continued good management.
Jayne Pearce (D): Casper Aquifer Protection (question two) and fiscal accountability and transparency (question three) are two reasons I entered the race. I’m your current vice-mayor and city council member from Ward 2, an experienced elected official with a master’s degree in public administration, who is progressive, does the research, has a keen understanding of policy processes, supports economic development, builds consensus, plays by the rules, and advocates for fairness and equality. If elected, I will measure my success if a sense of shared community values such as cooperation and understanding is once again realized.
How should the City Council and County Commission secure Casper Aquifer protection, considering that: 1) it lies almost exclusively in the County and, 2) it provides between 50 and 80 percent of the City of Laramie’s municipal water?
Mary Byrnes (D): The ultimate responsibility of the county commission is to provide health, safety and the efficient governance of Albany county for all its citizens. Protection of clean water is a must – opportunity for development and property rights is also a critical must. Policy must be informed and shaped by data, science, law and citizen input. We will find a solution to end the conflict between the city and county through an open process of discussion within existing procedures of the county and city planning and zoning committees and landowners. Collectively, we will find an agreeable, manageable, and lawful solution.
Peter Calderon (R): The Casper Aquifer is a vital community resource. The city and county must engage in a transparent process with its well water monitoring program and continue to gather verifiable scientific data on nitrate levels and other contaminants. Currently, the city and county both have protection overlay zone policies in place with similar ordinances/regulations with only a few notable differences. By working together city and county government should treat the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan as a living document updating policies as needed to protect our water. Consequently, we must abide by the law and respect private property rights.
Christopher M. Dixon (R): In reading the literature presented by both the CAP Network and Citizens for Clean Water I have come to the conclusion that both parties want what is best for the Casper Aquifer. However, both are too close to the problem for a reasonable resolution. The City Council and County Commissioners need to share the cost in hiring an agency to test ALL wells, not a few here and there. This testing agency shouldn't have a stake in the outcome nor should it be based in Wyoming. The results should be the FINAL say on this issue.
Terri Jones (R): We all want clean water, whether we live over the Casper Aquifer Protection Area and drink untreated water or in the City of Laramie. Caution must be observed not to devalue private property with excessive fees and ill-conceived regulations. In adopting a joint plan, the rules must be the same for all entities, County, City and Private. The Wyoming State constitution declares the waters of the state belong to the state. Albany County Commissioners and the City Council, in conjunction with the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, can work out a plan guided by Wyoming State law and common sense.
Jerry M. Kennedy (R): Albany County already has Casper Aquifer protection regulations in place. As County Commissioners we started the Casper Aquifer protection plan in about 2002, it was approved by the DEQ. We revised and clarified the protection plan in about 2013. This action took a lot of our time as Commissioners in order to make sure it was correct in protecting personal rights as well as the Aquifer. It involved public hearings and much debate.
Karl McCraken (R): While on council when the original study was released Laramie continued doing studies during that four years+ and has continued doing studies subsequent to my leaving council. I have owned three wells, and three septic systems, two of each I had designed and put in. I still own one of them. I am somewhat familiar what can go wrong mechanically on a PROPERLY INSTALLED system, but still need to be brought up to date on the studies that have been and are continuing to be conducted by paid professionals order to make an informed decision especially on chemistry and geology.
Thomas Mullan (R): I am not sure how to answer this question with out really spending a lot of time on what the ramifications would be if it were to be regulated. Is there a way to manage it well with out further imposing government on the residents of the county and city. We can address the issue of the Universities usage and waste and lack of real payment for its usage. The other issue I can see is how do we make sure that the aquifer is not contaminated? Again can this be done with out further regulation on the residents?
Jayne Pearce (D): Currently, jurisdictional boundaries have somewhat tied the hands of the city to act in protecting the Casper Aquifer. The County Commissioners could and should step up their efforts, as they have an incredible opportunity to act, to improve their current plan and secure clean water for approximately 35,000 current residents and countless future generations. They just need to act. I will act and advocate for clean water, I will not waiver or quit. I’m all in on this issue and I need your help.
Given declining state funding to Wyoming cities and counties, what specific ideas do you have for reducing expenses and/or increasing local government revenues?
Mary Byrnes (D): Albany county is blessed with a magnificent landscape and hardworking, bare bones staff of 150 employees. We must provide our county employees livable wages to reward their dedication and retain their talents. Elected officials work very collaboratively in efficient and effective ways and have kept the county government fiscally sound and accessing purposeful grants for repairs and necessary repairs. I will continue in this fiscal spirit and encourage the development of the tax base of the county to increase revenues while preserving our values of open spaces, recreational opportunities, and supporting public lands, leading to a diverse and sustainable economy.
Peter Calderon (R): I oppose any new taxes on our residents as a means to raise revenues. We need to reduce the trend of growing our government and return to maintaining our roads and county services. In addition, we should implement a rainy day fund for emergencies. I support getting out of the way of development as long as private property rights are respected. Business provides the county with property taxes. However, we should not subsidize companies with county funds. With fewer regulations, less entanglement, we can encourage economic development and personal liberty in the county true to the spirit of the West.
Christopher M. Dixon (R): As an employee of UW I am very aware of the decline in state funding. I think that as a county we all have to work together to achieve significant financial freedom from the state government. Albany County is not a mineral rich county. We are too dependent on state funding. As to how this can be achieved I sincerely think that we need to attract new businesses not only to Laramie but to the other communities in the county as well. Laramie should not be the lone beneficiary from this type of growth.
Terri Jones (R): Attending County Commissioner meetings regularly in past years and recent budget hearings, evidence department heads have slashed budgets, leaving little if any to cut. We must embrace all revenue streams available. Currently a large wind farm is planned for North and East of Rock River; we should see revenues beginning within the next 12 to 24 months. With more transmission lines available and a friendly business climate we could expect more wind energy revenues. Albany County offers everything; hunting, fishing, skiing, world class snowmobiling, great scenery, dude ranches, hiking, galleries, museums and fine arts. Albany County should be a year round convention/tourist destination!
Jerry M. Kennedy (R): The County Budget has to be balanced which could mean cuts in department budgets. The County Commissioners should not micro-manage those departments but should maintain over-site. There are some departments that need to meet State and Federal requirements. The Commissioners need to keep working on clean Economic Development for the County to provide jobs and a stronger tax base without jeopardizing our existing businesses and employment opportunities.
Karl McCraken (R): The Commissioners have done a good job by raising property values with the Pete Lien mine and the approval of the windfarm. Encouraging county business development brings more sales and property taxes to offset losses. The 6th cent tax should be due very shortly. While on council I made the bonds callable. This avoids overcollection. Rock River, Laramie, and Albany County will have to approve the items placed before the voters. I hope some tax could be used to increase the counties revenues through development in Woods Landing, Centennial, outside Laramie’s borders and other parts the landowners desire.
Thomas Mullan (R): The only way a government can raise revenue is to tax the people or charge more for services rendered - the expense thing is to reduce services or employees of the service organization. Neither of those things will be met with any sort of approval by the liberal majority. It really depends on what amount of money is being discussed - unfortunately too many factors play into how those decisions are made and you really have to know more information to make a choice. Finding a little money is a lot different than finding a lot of money in a budget.
Jayne Pearce (D): In order to preserve our basic services and people we have to improve our internal operations with an eye toward efficiency, evaluate our expenditures such as capital assets, make purchases that reduce costs such as technology, and evaluate and discover revenue generating services and fees. We also need to continue sharing services with our current partners and if possible find new partners. Sharing services requires negotiated oversite, budgetary controls and a payment relationship, we must be thorough. State and federal grants must be pursued, written, and submitted. Fiscal accountability and transparency are necessary attributes when addressing declining revenue.