Three Albany County Commissioners serve four year terms with no term limits. No office is provided. Two will be elected in November; each will receive $30,000 in compensation for the part-time position, plus health and retirement benefits. The two elected will join Commissioner Tim Sullivan who has two more years in his term.
- What are your qualifications for the office you seek? (75 words)
Tim Chesnut (D): I believe that my best qualification is that personality has calming effect around people when contentious issues arise. I work well with people especially when have to compromise to share specific purpose tax or state grant funds with Laramie and Rock River. As a county commissioner I have gained knowledge of specific county issues such as; the Casper aquifer protection, mosquito control, endangered species, private road condemnations and public safety issues.
Jon K. Essley (R): I am a Wyoming native, and 35 year resident of Albany County. I own property in Laramie and in the county. I served Albany County for 29 years as an officer in the National Guard. I have been responsible for over $21 million of military equipment with a repair budget of five million. I constantly find that making an in-depth study of statutes and regulations allows me to synthesize unique solutions to major problems.
Pat Gabriel (D): I served as Albany County Commissioner from 1991-2010. I feel my 20 years of experience as a Commissioner will give the citizens of Albany County a strong voice in seeing that government is responsive to the public. My time as Commissioner was very rewarding in that I did more listening and attempted to assist residents with the idea that compromise is usually the best solution.
Jerry M. Kennedy (R): I have personal knowledge of the workings of Wyoming Counties and have been very active in the running of Albany County. Experience working for a lifetime in a personally owned ranching operation, making all decisions, adds to understanding of successful business decisions. I have worked for and with many Albany County residents. I feel I have represented them fairly and with dignity. I have attended Commissioner Meetings and many other meetings so I am knowledgeable.
Ray McElwee (R): I have been a resident of Albany County for 23 years. My family and I lived in Laramie, Rock River, and we are currently living south of Laramie in the county. I am a UW graduate (B.A. Philosophy), local business owner (Groathouse Construction, Inc.), and community volunteer (LCBA, Laramie Hockey Club, Cathedral Home for Children). I am an engaged and active member of these organizations and will be the same as a Commissioner.
Mike Osterman (R): I am a third generation Wyoming and Albany County resident. I was born and raised in Laramie and have dedicated my life to public service. Over the last 39 years, I have worked for the Albany County Road and Bridge Department. For almost a decade, I have served as the Superintendent of the Department- effectively managing a million dollar budget, supervising 14 employees and ensuring that residents and visitors have safe roads.
Heber Richardson (R): When I decided to run for County Commission, I read the state statutes outlining the power of county commissions. I wanted to know the limitations of the office. I have common sense. I run a successful local business. I believe in the rule of law. I am a good listener. I am familiar with the entire county, including Laramie, and with the issues Albany County citizens face.
Gary Wilken (D): I have forty years of work and training in building consensus, communication, and effective public service. Examples include: Service on the Drug Court Management Team; Volunteers and Programs coordinator to the inmate population; Supervisor, instructor and trainer for law enforcement personnel; and a member of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing teams in this County and Southeast Wyoming. My continuing work with Non-profit sector agencies with limited resources and personnel also adds into my qualifications.
- Under what circumstances would it be appropriate to consider future costs to the County when the Commission is considering new rural subdivision applications? (100 words)
Tim Chesnut (D): To make it easier for development to take place near existing development lessens the cost to not just the county but to the developer. By abutting existing and new development makes it easier and less costly on roads, power and gas lines, proximity to well fields and access to public utilities. Infrastructure is always the biggest cost to developers, so by encouraging, but not forcing cluster development to take place can help in many ways
Jon K. Essley (R): I believe that to prosper, Albany County must continue to grow. To support this growth the county needs to support most all new planned subdivisions. The change from rural to rural-residential zoning will increase property values and should support any additional county costs, which are not part of the planned cost for the developer. Special tax districts should be utilized to offset other costs without burdening the remainder of the county’s residents. I would work with Planning and Zoning to promote subdivision standards relevant to the western rural lifestyle and that protect surrounding property rights and property values.
Pat Gabriel (D): Rural subdivisions are important to the future of Albany County. If a new subdivision being proposed has road access then costs are something the County already absorbs with road maintenance and snow plowing. I feel the County should discuss with the contractor if road access is not available and decide how best to handle maintenance in the future, perhaps a road improvement district for example which has been done in the Sherman Hills subdivision. The County must be careful in allocating funds to new subdivisions due to budget commitments that must support elected offices and other departments in the County.
Jerry M. Kennedy (R): I am very conservative with Rural Subdivisions. The major expense to the county is in Emergency Response Operations.
Ray McElwee (R): I believe financial stewardship to be the most important duty of a Commissioner. Therefore, it is always appropriate for Commissioners to consider future costs to the County when making decisions. In addition, future costs must not only be considered but more importantly, they must be accounted for in future budgets. In regards to subdivision applications, specific costs to consider and account for include engineering, infrastructure improvements and maintenance, and emergency services. Involving the affected department heads in the application process would ensure these costs are taken into account and steps are taken to manage the financial impact to the County.
Mike Osterman (R): In order for Albany County to be able to plan and grow within our means- it is crucial that each time that a new rural subdivision is considered that all costs to the county be assessed and weighed across the board. For example, identifying the impact on law enforcement’s budget, access to utilities like water and electricity, impacts on county roads and considering health and safety of residents. There will always be a cost to the county either directly or indirectly. Should I be elected, I will assess those costs and ensure that current resident’s quality of life is protected.
Heber Richardson (R): I would always consider future costs to provide county services to new subdivisions. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise. Many rural subdivisions have private road districts so they don’t require county maintenance. Fire service and Sheriff’s office are costs to the county. Property developers pay for building, septic, and well permits. They also improve the tax base. Many people choose to live in rural subdivisions specifically because they don’t want sidewalks, water, sewer, trash. I don’t see this as a big issue currently. It could become more challenging to provide services if the pace of development grows substantially.
Gary Wilken (D): Commissioners have a fiscal responsibility to the citizens of the County. Each application must be considered in light of the burden it puts on available resources. The size and location of the subdivision and the cumulative impact is important. The availability or need to develop roads and the impact on existing water, air and neighboring uses must be evaluated. Guidance is through the Comprehensive Plan and the Albany County Zoning Resolution. The Commission receives reports from Planning Department, Planning and Zoning Commission, Wyoming Game and Fish Dept., Laramie Rivers Conservation District, and road, water and sewer districts.
- Should the County assure that current residents’ quality of life is addressed (such as open space, aesthetic value, and rural character) when new development is proposed? If so, how should this be accomplished? (100 words)
Tim Chesnut (D): The reason most of us live in Wyoming is because of the great people and unmatched quality of life. Through zoning and long range planning we can maintain the rural nature of Albany Counties open spaces, while still encouraging technology and sustainable energy projects so our children to have good paying jobs, and can stay here to raise their children. Albany counties high wind speeds and lack of transmission lines make the climate less attractive than other places in Wyoming. New technologies to capture the wind are on the horizon and Albany County can be the capitol of wind energy.
Jon K. Essley (R): I find that Albany County residents live in Wyoming because of its distinctive western character and its recreational opportunities. Rural residents have made a conscious decision to buy a specific property at a location fitting their unique needs and which will fulfill their quality of life vision.Other citizens will decide to live in town. Developments must support these needs for our citizens and must also assure the development does not infringe on these same standards for existing property owners. The Planning and Zoning Commission of the Albany County Planning Department is the proper forum to assure these standards.
Pat Gabriel (D): All parties need to be involved in the process when new development is being proposed. The Albany County Planning office and planning board get first look at new subdivisions. From there the proposal goes onto the Commissioners and by that time a lot of the issues have been debated and hopefully ironed out. If not, it’s the Commissioners responsibility to see that all parties have a say in the process. Often times as a former Commissioner I would see a disputed plans go back to the Planning Commission for further discussion and review.
Jerry M. Kennedy (R): The County does consider the quality of life for residents when passing new subdivisions and Zoning changes. It is my feeling that less government control is better.
Ray McElwee (R): No, the County should not offer an assurance regarding something as subjective as “open space, aesthetic value and rural character”. I believe that the owner of a new development has just as much right to enjoy her property as do current residents. If a proposed development is allowed under current planning and zoning regulations then it is allowed, whether it appeals to current residents or not. Residents may engage the Planning and Zoning Commission if they seek to make regulation changes. The only assurance I would offer is that existing regulations will not change without considerable public input.
Mike Osterman (R): Absolutely. A resident’s quality of life is one of the most important things that we can protect in Albany County. When a development is proposed, I believe that one of the best ways to gauge the impact on residents and their quality of life is through public testimony. I know that it is difficult to take time off from work to attend a Commissioner meeting during the day, so holding an evening meeting or providing additional opportunities for public comment should be a priority when the Commissioners consider a new development.
Heber Richardson (R): The County already does. In my business dealings, I have witnessed firsthand the negative consequences of rural subdivisions that are too dense (small lot sizes). The current set of rules originating in the mid-1990s, limits lot sizing and requires adequate setbacks from property lines. This keeps neighbors fairly happy and minimizes regulatory burdens and costs. Larger lot subdivisions have fewer conflicts. As currently written, the rules get more strict, requiring more from the developer as the lots get smaller. I think the current rules are adequate. That said, I plan to keep an open mind.
Gary Wilken (D): I believe the County addresses current resident concerns about new development by making sure current residents are notified of proposed changes and invited to provide input on the proposed development. Quality of life matters should be considered, but first we need to meet basic health, safety, and welfare requirements without an undue financial burden on the County and its tax payers. With limited tax base and resources, the County and the boards and districts overseen by the County must not overextend ourselves. Care must be taken to insure proposed developments are viable and meet long range growth plan goals.