CASPER, Wyo. — Former member of the Wyoming Legislature and former City Councilman Keith Goodenough wants to fill the Ward III vacancy left by Chris Walsh’s resignation.
He’s not the only one interested, but the City has not released the names of other candidates. Goodenough told the Council he was interested during their public meeting on Tuesday.
At least three people had applied as of Tuesday, but the City Clerk’s office said on Friday that more have been received.
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“I saw the vacancy,” Goodenough said on Thursday, July 18. “I like it, I’m interested in participating in the goings-on in government and so I decided to throw my name in there and see what happens.”
Goodenough was a member of the state house for four years and spent much of his ten years in the Wyoming Senate as a member of the judiciary committee.
He also says he spent eight years on Casper’s City Council. He’s now retired and has moved to Casper’s east side, so he says he’s eligible and capable of filling the vacancy.
There’s some things he’d like to see happen if he gets selected.
“I would say the biggest issue is the pending fiscal issue facing the state because the city is almost totally dependent on the state for its funding,” Goodenough said. “It has been bad previously but it is going to get worse.”
Goodenough says he’ll take action to pressure the state legislature to give cities more authority to raise their own money if he lands the spot.
“I would call myself a fiscal conservative,” he added, saying that he has “opposed a number of issues that turned out to be a waste of money.”
For him, purchasing the ice sheet for the Casper Events Center was one such example.
“[That] ice sheet cost the city almost $2 million,” Goodenough said. “Now it has been mothballed.”
“That’s a good example of waste of the public money. I always look with a skeptical eye on some of these pie-in-the-sky ideas.”
Another example is the City’s decision to purchase the former Plains Furniture properties.
“It’s a great example of how the City can lose money by being in the land speculation business,” Goodenough said.
He said that the City purchased the properties for over the initial appraised values and is now hoping to sell some of them for under their current appraised values.
“I don’t accept that,” Goodenough said.
He said that he thinks the current Council has the tendency to put themselves in situations where they have to walk back some of their decisions.
“I think there is an unfortunate tendency for the Council to overreach at least initially until they get push-back,” Goodenough said. “The overserving ordinance is a good example of that. You as a homeowner were responsible for all of your guests. To me that was an overreach.”
Goodenough is referring to the City Council’s changes to rules about serving alcohol. Initially, they were working toward an amendment to the Municipal Code that would make it illegal to over serve anyone alcohol and that would have applied to people serving alcohol in their own homes.
But the Council backed off of that aspect of the amendments, deciding instead to put in place rules that require people serving alcohol at liquor establishments or events to obtain “TIPS” training.
Goodenough says that is something Council should have worked out before bringing it up for a vote.
“The general idea is in the work sessions, ideas are discussed and overreaches are slapped down,” he said. “The idea is to not overreach to begin with.”
Goodenough is hopeful that the Council will select him to fill the vacancy, but he thinks it is unlikely he will receive support from Mayor Charlie Powell or Councilman Bob Hopkins.
That’s because he believes they still harbor some “lingering resentment” over a difference of opinion regarding former Councilman Craig Hedquist.
“He was elected to Council in 2012,” Goodenough said. “He was a contractor, he had a construction firm. He was kind of rough around the edges. He ran into the new City Manager John Patterson.”
Goodenough says that he thinks Patterson manipulated the City Council “to get Craig out of office.”
“Kicking an elected official out of office, that’s a really big deal,” Goodenough said. “He was elected by the people. I’m unclear still how much the city manager manipulated the situation and how much [Hedquist] actually did.”
While that issue may be in the past, Goodenough thinks it raises several somewhat related concerns.
“One of the problems historically is that the city attorney should be independent of the city manager,” he said.
Goodenough said he thinks the city attorney is meant to advise the Council independently of what the city manager would like to get done.
“I just believe the city attorney needs to be told you work for us, you don’t work for the city manager,” he said.
Goodenough said that another thing that he thinks makes him a good candidate is that he attempts to get at the primary root of problems. He also thinks he’d be able to work with all the Council members despite having some differences of opinion.
“I’ve enjoyed working with everybody I’ve ever served with, legislators I worked with, everybody,” he said. “I have usually a different voice in many ways because I always look for the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.”
“A lot of people in jail are mentally ill,” Goodenough said. “There is kind of a revolving door of mentally ill people [put in jail]. To really get to the root of that, I think you have to delve into how do we keep people stable. Of course, that delves into the health care system.”
“If you get at the root of the problem you save money over the long run. There are non dangerous people in jail because they can’t afford bail to get out. The purpose of jail is to make sure people show up to their court case. I think a lot of people could be released on their own recognizance.”
He said that he is generally in favor of City Manager Carter Napier’s suggestion that the Council consider joining the state’s health insurance pool.
“Generally the bigger the pool the better able you are to absorb costs,” he said.
He doesn’t think that the most recent animal control ordinance changes totally addressed what it needed to.
“The most important part of an animal ordinance is to keep vicious dogs under control,” Goodenough said. “I’m not convinced that the changes really got into that.”
“I’m not convinced that the new language is any more effective at dealing with vicious dogs than the old one.”
He said that what needs to be done is to ensure that Metro Animal Control officers are clearly told that dealing with vicious animals is their top priority.
Goodenough would also like to see some procedural changes to ensure government transparency.
He said that work sessions should be held in the large room at City Hall rather than in the smaller room next door so that everyone who wants to sit in has plenty of space.
“Transparency to me is making sure there is enough seats for everyone that is interested,” he said.
He also thinks that Council should hold special public meetings when it comes to controversial topics such as the over-serving rules.
He’s also a little bit skeptical of the Ward system for electing City Council members.
“Every ordinance applies to every Casper citizen, so I don’t really see it as Ward specific unless it is a zoning issue or something like that,” he said.
Goodenough says that he is active on Facebook and is willing to debate his online critics face-to-face.
“I’m a Facebook warrior on a constant basis,” he said. “Most of what I do is fight fake news. It is a social wide problem that people buy into these totally phony narratives. They have just internalized it.”
He said that meeting people in person would help the public develop a greater sense of trust in their Council members.
“People don’t have trust in elected officials,” Goodenough said. “They think they’re all in it for the money. Part of it is that politicians don’t get out and about in the community like they did.”
He’s recently challenged some Facebook commenters to debates.
“I do that since it doesn’t ever happen, but I’m actually pretty willing to do it,” he said. “Debates are important not just for candidates but for issues.”
Goodenough said that he did some debates with former Wyoming House Representative Diemer True.
“I actually did that successfully way back in the day,” he said. “We weren’t running against each other. People showed up because they wanted to see me get beat to a pulp.”
Goodenough said that he graduated from Kelly Walsh and went on to get his degree in forestry from the University of Montana.
After that, he spent two years in the Peace Corps in Guatemala.
“It was very eye opening,” Goodenough said. “That’s really what sparked my interest in government. The government was murdering its citizens. tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of murders.”
Information about the Guatemalan genocides can be found online.
Friday, July 19 is the last day for people to apply to fill the Ward III vacancy.
NOTE: If you are applying to fill the Ward III vacancy and would like to speak with an Oil City reporter, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.