John Heath chosen as new mayor

SHERIDAN — John Heath, former City Council president, was appointed as the new mayor of Sheridan in a special meeting held at noon today. He will finish out former Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey’s unexpired term through 2016.

Kinskey resigned his position as mayor at the meeting after being appointed Monday to fill the Senate District 22 seat left vacant by the death of Sen. John Schiffer last month. He will represent all of Johnson County and rural areas of eastern and southern Sheridan County.

Kinskey is scheduled to be sworn in as a senator on Tuesday. He will complete Schiffer’s unexpired term through 2016.

The change in leadership caused a further changing of the guard as new council members were nominated to fill the roles of council president and vice president.

The council unanimously chose Councilman Alex Lee as president and Councilman Bob Webster as vice president. Lee formerly served as vice president. In his new role, Lee will be acting mayor when Heath is away.

The meeting had somber moments as Kinskey made his farewells and council members thanked him for his leadership and said their goodbyes. On the other hand, there were moments of celebration — complete with a standing ovation by council and the audience — for Heath’s nomination to the role of mayor.

The council chambers in City Hall were filled with city staff, family members and representatives from the county and surrounding towns including Commissioner Mike Nickel, Dayton Town Councilman Dennis Wagner, Clearmont Mayor Chris Schock and former City Councilman John Bigelow.

“This is a bittersweet moment for two reasons,” Kinskey said in his resignation speech. “First, because this transition is occasioned by the death of our dear friend, state Sen. John Schiffer. John was a good man. He was a great legislator. He was a tireless advocate for Wyoming. He was a family man. As Saint Paul wrote, he fought the good fight; he finished the race; he kept the faith.”

“This moment is one of mixed emotions for a second reason,” Kinskey continued. “Simply put, I love my job. It has been my honor to serve the people of Sheridan. I appreciate the trust they have put in me and the City Council. There is no greater calling than service to others, and there is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”

Kinskey continued his speech by saying he was confident he was leaving the city in good hands. He then handed the gavel to Heath to continue the meeting. The council voted to accept Kinskey’s resignation before Lee nominated Heath to serve as mayor. Councilman Jesus Rios seconded, and all approved.

“I am proud to accept this role on behalf of the citizens of Sheridan. I want to thank my fellow council members for their vote of confidence and their service, and I pledge my commitment in time and energy to continue to put Sheridan and the citizens of Sheridan first,” Heath said in his acceptance speech.

Each council member took a moment to say thank you to Kinskey and to welcome Heath as their new mayor, many citing what they had learned from each man.

When comments were opened to the public, Bigelow stepped to the microphone.

“John, big boots; your feet are that large. You can do it,” he said.

Following the meeting, Heath said that he was eager to begin the job and aware that it would be a 70-hour a week position. Although Heath would not have guessed even three weeks ago that he’d be mayor of Sheridan, he said when the possibility arose that Kinskey may be leaving, he did ask his fellow council members to consider him for the appointment.

“As president of City Council, prior to being mayor, I was very much involved in the day-to-day business, and this is exactly what we’re going to do,” Heath said. “We’re going to continue to move forward. There is no change in direction: growing the economy, bringing jobs back into our community, like we say up here, working with existing businesses, making sure that they prosper, making sure this is a beautiful city so people can come, enjoy, live, retire, raise children.”

The process for appointing a new mayor is delineated in Wyoming State Statute, which states that city council will choose a new mayor from one of the city council members. Typically, the appointed mayor serves until the next general election, at which time whoever is elected fills the seat through the unexpired term.

However, a second state statute rules that a vacancy in the second year of the mayor’s term after the first day of the filing period to run for election will result in whoever is appointed to fill the seat finishing out the unexpired term.

City Clerk Scott Badley said there is no timeline set by state rules for when the vacant City Council seat must be filled. He said the council will likely announce the vacancy at its next meeting July 21 and will then decide how to fill it.

The seat could be filled in a similar manner to the vacancy filled by Rios earlier this year where applications are accepted from the public and an interview and selection process conducted, or the council could wait to fill the seat during the upcoming election. Badley said he did not know what process the council would choose.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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