CASPER, Wyo — Casper citizens got to meet dozens of candidates and current elected officials in Washington Park Monday, June 29, at the first of a series of Politics in the Park forums hosted by the Natrona County Republican Women. The focus Monday was on the candidates for the Natrona County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).
Two terms on the 5-seat BOCC are expiring and will be voted on in the Primary Election on August 18, 2020. Commissioner Forrest Chadwick is not running again, and Commissioner Brook Kaufman, who was appointed to replace Matt Keating on the board when he became County Assessor in 2019, is running to keep the seat.
In addition to Kaufman, V Worth Christie, Vickery Fales Hall, Dave North, and Kevin Christopherson are running. Candidate Jerry Cook did not attend.
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Joe McGinley, head of the Natrona County GOP, and Kim Walker, president of the Natrona County Republican Women, moderated the event asked questions submitted from the audience.
Candidates opened with 5 minutes to introduce their backgrounds and qualifications. They highlighted their track records with budgets and businesses as credentials for facing Wyoming’s economic “double-whammy:” COVID-19 and the market plunge in legacy markets like oil and gas.
“Everybody that’s in political office has probably got one of the worst jobs [of anyone] coming up this next year,” said Mills Fire Chief Dave North, “Because they’re going to have to cut budgets.”
“I was doing the Dave Ramsey plan when Dave Ramsey was broke,” said Kevin Christopherson, saying he’s been out of debt since paying off his house at age 29. He’s been on the Natrona County Schools Board of Trustees 8 years, and said that until 2020 they’d been able to put away $500,000 every year. He suggested the Commissioners themselves might have to take a pay cut.
Vickery Fales Hall recalled her time as Senate page for U.S. Senator Alan Simpson during the first government shutdown in 1981, “because of a fight over the budget.” She says that was when her fundamental political ideas took shape: “Shrinking the size and scope of government, promoting small business and lower taxes for all, fiscal responsibility, [and] government efficiency.
V Worth Christie, a 70-year Wyoming resident, said he’d run a successful brokerage business for 35 years, and that during his first year as president of Casper Legion Baseball, the organization was able to pay off $82,000 in debt and win a state championship.
“I have no personal agenda,” he stated. “I like working with infrastructure, I like working with department heads, I like working with elected officials…. to find more efficient ways to run government.”
After the forum he told Oil City News he saw economic opportunity in utilizing the Casper airport as a shipping hub or fulfillment center for companies like Amazon, saying Casper was geographically ideal for shipping routes west of the Mississippi River.
Commissioner Kaufman lauded county departments already for operating efficiently. “It’s amazing how lean the departments are. There’s not a lot of bloat.” She said departments “across the board” came it at or under budget for the fiscal year.
Kaufman is also CEO of Visit Casper, which worked to organize the 2017 Wyoming Eclipse Festival and promotes tourism, Wyoming’s second-largest industry. She said she’s passionate about outdoor recreation for both its economic and quality-of-life benefits to Wyoming residents.
Dave North is the Mills Fire Chief and owns DNS Environmental. He worked for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department from 1986-1999. He’s been on the Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services Advisory Board since 2019, and is President of the Platte River Rod and Gun Club.
He said the main reasons he’s running are that he believes in private property rights, maintaining the 2nd Amendment, and getting the economy moving after COVID and taking steps to open restaurants.
North said he would not take a “top-down” or “across-the-board” approach to cutting budgets, but would work with department heads to identify which things were essential to keep.
Vickery Fales Hall introduced herself as mother of two and 5th-generation Wyomingite. She’s from Cody, where her family runs the Rimrock Dude Ranch. She’s worked for the Wyoming Community Foundation for 9 years and Dual Language Immersion leadership team, Rotary Club member, and biathlon racing coach.
She said she knew the “good, bad, and the ugly” of being a County Commissioner from her father, who was a County Commissioner for 2 terms in Park County.
“Maybe your dinner table conversation isn’t about landfill liners, but we would often discuss that sort of thing,” Hall said.
V Worth Christie Served in the Wyoming National Guard and US Army. He he was also on the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Wyoming, and is a member of the American Legion and the Kiwanas Club.
He said he has “the time and desire” to be a good Commissioner. “Originally, County Commissioner was a part-time job,” he said. “In the year 2020, I don’t see it as a part-time job, especially if we’re looking at close to 3,000 [property tax valuation] appeals.”
Kevin Christopherson is a lifelong Natrona County resident and owner PC Transport Inc. He said he’s an avid bowhunter and pilots aircraft. “I’m in the air just about every day in the summer.”
Kaufman said being a Commissioner was not what she expected but is still passionate about improving Natrona County. She said being a Commissioner involves making “enormous decisions” that not everyone is happy with. If re-elected, she said she would focus on working with user groups, county staff and county leadership to solve problems. She also said she wanted to make county government more approachable by the general public.
The final question for all the candidates was, “What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in life?”
- Vickery Fales Hall: “Just keep moving forward.”
- Brook Kaufman: “There are times in your life that you’re going to have to learn to forgive yourself.
- Dave North: “Treat other people the way you’d like to be treated yourself. Treat them with respect.
- Kevin Christopherson: “What you put out into the world comes right back and slaps you in the face… Put out love.”
- V Worth Christie: “You learn a lot more by listening than you do by talking.”