CASPER, Wyo. — Casper’s newest member of the City Council is Steve Cathey.
Cathey, a former vice mayor, previously served on the council from 2013-2016. He ran against former Councilman Chris Walsh in the 2016 election cycle.
“It was a surprise,” Cathey said of being selected on Monday, Aug. 5 to replace Walsh, who resigned due to obligations at a new job. “There were a lot of good people there last night.”
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“Anytime you are selected for anything either by the public or your peers, it is humbling.”
Casper Mayor Charlie Powell said he was unable to provided a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind the council’s decision to select Cathey ahead of the 12 other candidates to fill the Ward III vacancy.
But he did offer some thoughts about Cathey’s capabilities.
“Steve did an excellent job in his previous service to the City,” Powell said. “The majority of the council felt that he was the most qualified candidate and we are confident he will do a good job.”
Powell said that the decision was difficult due to the number of quality candidates who applied.
“This may well have been the most impressive group of candidates I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It was extremely difficult [to decide].”
Cathey talked about running against Walsh in 2016.
“As you know, in any election, name recognition is a bunch,” he said. “His family is very well known in the community.”
He pointed out that Walsh’s father Tom Walsh was a former councilman himself and served as a state legislator.
“His mother right now is on the school board,” Cathey said of Natrona County School District Board of Trustees Chair Rita Walsh.
He also mentioned that Chris Walsh is a former police chief for the Casper Police Department.
Part of Cathey’s surprise in being selected to fill the vacancy was due to the number of candidates and the number of new faces, saying that he didn’t necessarily expect the council to choose a former council member.
However, Cathey said in his interview before the council that his past experience was an advantage because he’d be able to hit the ground running without needing to learn all the requirements of the position.
He said that it could take someone with no experience six months to a year to get up to speed.
“It isn’t just a walk in the park,” Cathey said. “It is more than a 9-5 job.”
Cathey says that he took the job seriously before and will continue to do so now that he has been reappointed.
“When I was on the council before, there were times that I lost sleep over issues,” he said. “It is not easy.”
Cathey will be at the Tuesday, Aug. 6 city council meeting where he will be sworn into office.
“I have already looked at the agenda,” he said.
Cathey plans to participate in votes on some issues, though he may abstain from some in tonight’s meeting because he thinks he needs more information.
He also say that he will run for city council again in 2020, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Cathey is set to serve out the rest of the current term, which expires Jan. 5, 2021.
“Making Casper and continuing to make Casper a very livable place” is what Cathey says he’ll focus on with the council.
Ensuring traffic safety and flow are some of the things he has on mind right now.
“Basically, all of our major east-west streets are residential streets,” Cathey said.
With “curb cuts” in sidewalks along many of Casper streets which allow vehicles to pull into driveways, Cathey says this is both a safety issue and slows down traffic on major streets.
He’d like to see the city make conscious decisions about where they allow curb cuts, in order to ensure traffic flows well in the city.
“Casper has been developed by developers, not city planners,” Cathey said.
He pointed to the example of 21st Street, which he says was originally intended to stretch east toward Hat 6 Road.
But a residential subdivision was added there as well as Summit Elementary School, which Cathey says prevented 21st from becoming a major thoroughfare out toward Hat 6.
“The developers are in business to make money,” Cathey said. “City Council is in business to make a livable city.”
Cathey says that he thinks the city understands the point he is making, but adds that this is something he’d like to give attention to.
He’d also like to ensure that there is greater communication with the Wyoming Department of Transportation to coordinate things like street light signal timing.
While that has been coordinated well in some places, Cathey says it is important to continue to communicate with WYDOT on issues like this.
Cathey graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in architecture from the University of Kansas in 1976 and received a master’s degree in civil engineering in 1977.
He says that his educational background provided him with some expertise in city planning and transportation.