CASPER, Wyo — David Carpenter says he’s always been “pretty vocal” on economics, political theory, and the business side of the energy industry. “Economics runs the entire show,” he told Oil City News.
But it was his property taxes that finally tipped him toward a run at public office. He says the assessed value on his land went up 1,817%, and his total tax went up 154% this year. That’s why he made the decision to run for Wyoming House of Representatives – District 59 on May 22, the last day to file.
“It feels insensitive with the economic situation right now,” Carpenter said of such increases. Carpenter said he felt the window of time between notification of the new assessment values in April and the deadline to file a formal appeal on May 29 posed a burden on older residents and people who have been out-of-state.
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“All the accountability and all of the burden falls on the property owners. The County Assessor’s office won’t accept an appraisal as part of the appeals process. [The Natrona County Assessor’s Office] wants comparable prices. That’s fine, except that comparable sales aren’t available to the general public.”
Carpenter studied economics and environmental and natural resources at the University of Wyoming and the University of Alaska, studying “the business side of the energy industry; water and property rights.” As an independent contract landman for the energy industry he spent a lot of time diving into the records of county courthouses, tracking the titles of parcels of land from their U.S. government-issued patent date, sometimes from the mid-1800’s, to the present.
“It’s real estate law and pure business in one thing,” he said. “I think it’s prepared me to comprehend and interpret laws and statutes. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t have to read a state statute.”
He’s found the skills applicable elsewhere.
“I read a lot of the CARES Act, read or at least skimmed 900 pages and read some parts in depth multiple times.” He said he was soon sending PDFs to his friends regarding less-publicized portions of the Act that gave homeowners options to find forbearance on their mortgages.
He said he also saw some waste in the CARES Act, and would like to see a more targeted approach to the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans with a specific focus on small businesses.
At 12, he moved with his family to Alaska where his dad taught social studies at an alternative high school. “Alaska taught me early on about hard work. You have to wake up earlier.” At 17, he worked on a skiff doing “quasi-commercial” fishing, transferring by hand thousands of pounds of salmon from one boat to another and onto the dock. “I was getting paid for exactly how hard I worked,” Carpenter said. “The boss was looking for a strong grip.”
Carpenter was Vice-President of Carpenter and Sons Inc. before acquiring Pacer Energy LLC with two partners in Gillette and Cheyenne, specializing in mineral title, leasing, and right-of-way.
Carpenter described education as “our number one priority,” but has “major concerns about the revenue and the budget.”
“We spent 1.5 billion last year on education, and of that, 800 million came from the [School Foundation Program (SFP)], with is primarily funded through oil and gas royalties.” On June 4, Governor Mark Gordon said coal revenues were down 25 percent, and projected oil revenues have dropped more than 50 percent in three months.
Carpenter said Wyoming should continue to support technological initiatives and vocational training to ensure kids will able to compete in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)-dominant job market. “The coronavirus gave us a look at some of our shortcomings on technology in education,” he said, recalling March of this year when much of the business and educational world went virtual. “Those IT guys were very busy scrambling to take up the slack.”
For Wyoming’s own energy economy, Carpenter said Wyoming should go with what works. “I don’t think there’s anything that can compete with natural gas on a price or efficiency level, and it’s a fairly clean source of energy. We should invest in any and every idea that provides broad and cost-effective access to energy.” He’s in favor of solar and wind projects, but said, “I’m worried if we mandate clean-energy, it will drive up prices overall. It’s not that competitive, all things being equal.” He’s also in favor of investment in coal-conversion technologies.
Carpenter said he supports states’ rights and is an “economic conservative,” but said the current GOP is “dug in on certain issues.”
“I know it’s scary with an ‘R’ in front of my name, but we should look at the marijuana issue,” Carpenter said. “There are some social ramifications to legalization, but we should study it and take it into consideration.” He said he’s also in favor of sports betting and gaming. “The revenue is there,” he said.
David’s wife is an artist and they have two children. They spend time working on DIY Projects. Carpenter likes to hunt and fish, but says he’s too busy to do as much of either as he would like.