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Most of Wyoming’s larger communities — Gillette, Riverton, Cody, Casper and Laramie — now have a city administrator or manager on staff. Cheyenne and Sheridan are the only major communities without one.
In 2007, Sheridan’s City Council approved the hiring of a city administrator only to have the action challenged by the community in a special election in February 2008. The Council lost, but it was close. Just 2,173 votes were cast and the winning side ended up just 131 votes ahead.
Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey has been evangelizing the idea publicly again. He included it in his State of the City address given to the City Council earlier this year and at events such as Rotary Club meetings.
He emphasizes that he’d like to get back to focusing on the big picture — policy initiatives for the city, relationships with the county and Wyoming Legislature.
Sheridan is not the same community it was in 2008. The natural gas boom has since ended and community leadership is now focused on diversification — technology companies, light manufacturing and the arts. Some of the challenges remain — affordable child care, connectivity and business recruitment — from six years ago. But, others like more unreliable air service, connectivity and doing more with less are new.
Some city staff members have gone without raises for years and others have endured buyouts and layoffs. City administrators do not come cheap and one question likely in the minds of Sheridan residents is how that position will be paid for out of city coffers. A clear answer may be key to successfully making the change.
The mayor has said he will advocate that the issue be considered on a general ballot. Good idea. Kinskey has also said he plans to maintain the “strong mayor” form of government, meaning the mayor will remain a publicly elected position rather than simply being chosen from among Council members.
Wyoming residents are independent, stubborn and demand a say in the way their country, state and communities are run.
They likely wouldn’t respond to a forced change of how Sheridan operates. An articulated argument, a clear plan to make it happen and community buy-in would make it possible. It is time.