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SHERIDAN — Three Sheridan residents have tossed their hat into the ring for the open seat on City Council left when Levi Dominguez, who represented Ward 3, resigned Jan. 6 in order to pursue a position with the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Department.
The five remaining councilors and Mayor Dave Kinskey will vote on a replacement following an interview with each candidate at the regularly scheduled council meeting on April 7.
Whoever is appointed will serve until the general election in November, when he or she will have to campaign for the seat, City Clerk Scott Badley said.
Whoever is elected in November will complete Dominguez’s original term through 2016.
Business owner Val Burgess and Planning Commissioner Thayer Shafer — who both live in the city’s former Ward 3 — applied within a week of the opening. Jesus Rios, vice president for business development at Ptolemy Data Systems, applied after March 3 when City Council decided to accept citywide applications for the seat.
That decision came on the heels of a Feb. 18 council vote to eliminate the city’s system of wards and switch to at-large representation.
Find out more about each candidate below and let your city councilors know who you’d like to see in the seat. Phone numbers for city councilors and the mayor are listed on the Public Notices page in The Sheridan Press.
Burgess has been a business owner since 1989 and said her knowledge of budgets and staffing is a key strength she would bring to the council.
“I’m well-connected in terms of knowing a lot about a lot of different things,” Burgess said. “I understand lots of areas, and that is valuable because I can talk to lots of people.”
Burgess particularly noted her affinity for senior citizens that lead her to complete a project where she interviewed hundreds of World War II Prisoners of War.
“I feel like I would like to see people work for our residents, meaning all of them,” Burgess said. “I understand the senior citizens, and my age group, which is right on verge of that, and I also like young people, as well.”
Ultimately, Burgess said she wants to see members of City Council better engage city residents so needs and desires are truly represented.
“I would like to see things change a little bit, and I would like to be part of that process,” Burgess said.
• Relevant experience: Burgess has served with the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce, Forward Sheridan, the Promotion Committee for the Downtown Sheridan Association, the Wyoming Arts Council, the Genesis Foundation, the Wyoming Women’s Foundation, Whitney Benefits and the Wyoming Industry Coalition.
• Why she is running: Because she wants to see more women involved in government, and because she’s been considering public office for years.
“I served on the Wyoming Women’s Foundation and always said, ‘Well, one of these days, well, one of these days,’ and it seems like the day came. And here I am.”
• Issues of interest: Burgess said she wants to study the budget for the city and understand how money is spent. She also said she is interested in the newly formed Downtown Development Authority and wants to see how that will progress.
Rios said he has been involved in the Sheridan community since moving here in 2001. He has served with the Chamber of Commerce, the Center for a Vital Community and a variety of economic development committees. He is also the chairman of the Sheridan County Republican Party.
“The experience I’ve had being involved in the community has built a solid understanding about where we’re headed and what we need to do to be able to grow opportunities for young families like my own,” Rios said.
Rios said since he submitted his application, he’s been meeting with city councilors about current issues and the demands of the position.
“That demonstrates that I’m the kind of person who wants to sit down and hear about current issues,” Rios said. “I like to ask questions and do my research. I want to be an informed representative of the community.”
• Why he is running: Rios ran for a seat on City Council in 2004 but was new to the community at that time. He said running for City Council has been on his mind and heart for a while, and the timing seemed right to apply for the opening.
“I do have the skill set from business background and a community organization background to do a good job on City Council,” Rios said. “But ultimately it was because my wife supported the idea.”
• Too much Ptolemy power: Some people have expressed concern about Rios running for City Council and his Ptolemy business partner Ryan Mulholland running for the Wyoming Legislature. Here is how Rios answered that concern:
“I was student body president at UW, president of my school at Buffalo High School and went to nationals in speech and debate. I was in the Army National Guard for six years and participated in Leadership Wyoming,” Rios said. “Those things I’ve done speak to who I am as an individual. It’s only natural that I would want to serve in some kind of capacity. It’s part of who I am.”
Shafer said he has no long-term political aspirations and no axes to grind, but that he does have a history of servant leadership.
“This isn’t something I put my heart on winning. I won’t be deflated if I don’t get asked to serve,” Shafer said. “But it does give people a wider range of choice, and I still have something to offer.”
Shafer currently serves on the Sheridan Planning Commission and ran for a City Council seat in 2012 when he was recruited to run against Dominguez because people felt no one should run unopposed.
Shafer said one of his primary strengths is how many experiences he’s had living in 13 states and overseas in Germany while serving as a Colonel for the U.S. Army Reserve.
“Every community has many of same problems in common and each have to find solutions that fit their situations and are best for them. I’ve seen a lot of solutions for the same problems. I’ve seen lots of ways people do things,” Shafer said.
For example, in Germany people had to clear the snow in front of their house to the center of the street using a wheelbarrow and a shovel to haul the snow out back. In New York City, the put snow plows on garbage trucks to get the job done.
• Community involvement: Shafer was part of the Recycling Task Force that helped start recycling in Sheridan and also helped start the first community garden and the farmer’s market as part of the Sheridan Garden Club. He has been a member of the rotary club for 25 years and graduated the Sheridan Civilian Police Academy in 2013.
• Issues of interest: Shafer said he is interested in enhanced air service for Sheridan and the possibility of securing an alternate landfill site to be ready for changing regulations. Also, even though City Council is now at-large, Shafer said he still feels the people and businesses in the former Ward 3 need someone to represent their needs.