DAYTON — In an unprecedented race for a small town, five Dayton residents are in the running to fill two open seats on Dayton Town Council in the upcoming election. That field will be narrowed to four candidates for the general election following the primary election Tuesday.
There have been times in past elections that people have been asked to run for a seat on Dayton Town Council because no one applied.
Candidates include some who want to serve their neighbors and preserve Dayton’s financial and infrastructural integrity to some who’d like to see Dayton grow and progress with new perspectives. Others are concerned about current governance and want to promote lower taxes and more openness.
What do you hope to accomplish as a council member?
• Eric Lofgren: Lofgren said he doesn’t necessarily have an agenda to accomplish, but that he’d like to be part of helping Dayton grow at a slow, steady pace, and that he’d reach out to residents more.
“If I’m elected, I will look to do everything I can to better the town of Dayton. I do value the residents and any time there has been — in the past — a large resolution that would involve other people, I always went and talked to those people. I do value that,” Lofgren said.
• Clifford Reed: Reed said he’d like to reduce government waste, starting with local town spending, and cited projects like the Ranchester Information Center as examples of poor usage of taxpayer money. He would like to get rid of the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax by weaning social programs off of the funds it provides, although he understands that he is a representative of the people and will support the tax if the people vote for it.
“I would like to see Dayton, Ranchester and the school district make national news saying Dayton, Wyoming, refused grant money because they don’t need it. We’re $18 trillion in debt: let’s start being more responsible,” Reed said.
Reed also said he would talk to town residents who will be affected by town actions.
• Craig Reichert: Reichert said he wants to focus on maintaining the town’s infrastructure and services for its people.
“The town gets older every year, just like we do,” Reichert said. “We’ve got to keep that stuff up and take care of employees and keep up on them. Don’t let our roads, sewer or water go, or we’ll end up paying three times the amount of what we should. My background is in highway construction and road maintenance, and I hope it can be put to use.”
• Chris Smith: Smith said he’d like to see the town finish paving all the streets that remain unpaved in the next four years. He’d like to see the town give more thought to sidewalks and pathways to make Dayton more pedestrian friendly, especially since Dayton is a bedroom community where people live and recreate. He’d also like to have more than two parks and more areas for kids’ activities.
Smith also said there are minor issues regarding council transparency he’d like to address.
• Jeremy Smith: Smith said he would like to maintain valuable town infrastructure like the TRVCC, park and pool; work to create partnerships to expand opportunities for residents by bringing in natural gas, re-establishing a golf course in the area, and possibly bringing in a medical clinic; and foster economic development by bringing in natural gas and businesses that are useful for residents and tourists alike and that will capture extra dollars for the town such as a car wash, motel and campgrounds.
“You’ve got to keep what we’ve got and expand opportunities that make sense,” Smith said, adding that he’d work to make high speed Internet more accessible.
What do you think is the #1 challenge for Dayton in coming years and how would you address it?
• Lofgren: In his experience with the Dayton fire and rescue units, Lofgren said that finding and maintaining enough volunteers has always been a challenge and will continue to be in the future. He said the position can be draining because volunteers often know the person in trouble.
Lofgren also said maintaining the water plant and installing a natural gas line will be challenges.
• Reed: Reed said the biggest challenge for Dayton will be figuring out how to be more business friendly and grow its business base with the realization that it will never be a Main Street business area. Reed also said Dayton is running out of room to expand since it is surrounded by ranches. Since he is a proponent of private property rights, he said figuring out how to grow will be a challenge.
• Reichert: Reichert said keeping residents informed is a big challenge and that he’d like to improve communication through the town’s website and maybe a town newsletter. He said while he’d like to improve attendance at meetings, he realizes that will be difficult and said he’s committed to going door-to-door to solicit opinions on the town’s proposed actions.
He also mentioned the need to improve Internet and technology in the town as a key challenge.
• Chris Smith: “Dayton’s real number one challenge is economic hard times,” Smith said. “I think we’re going to have a harder time attracting people and being able to tax more. At the same time, the town will face rising costs. An economic squeeze play is beginning, and it will continue.”
Smith said the key is making good decisions on what is necessary for government to provide and what is nice for government to provide, avoiding a mindset where the town is a source of money for social service organizations.
• Jeremy Smith: “I think the biggest challenge is how to improve the local economy. It’s a wonderful place to live, it has good things, but there is a lot of empty or underutilized space downtown for commercial purposes,” Smith said. “We need diversity to get and keep dollars circulating in town.”
Smith said a secondary challenge he’d like to address is bringing in a medical clinic or pharmacy to serve the health needs of residents.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
• Lofgren: “My commitment to the town of Dayton and my experience being on Council in the past. I have worked with budgets, gone out and talked with the people of Dayton, and I am approachable,” Lofgren said. “I’d just appreciate anyone’s vote next week.”
• Reed: “My business experience, being self-employed, especially at such a young age, and my particular type of business, where you lose 30-60 percent of your bees due to colony collapse disorder every winter and it’s a financial struggle to maintain,” Reed said. “I have a real head for money management and that gives me a leg up.”
• Reichert: “Everyone has their own benefits they will bring no matter who gets in, so I can’t say that I can bring anything better than any of the other candidates,” Reichert said. “I do want to bring people’s opinions back into it as much as possible. I’m giving up my right to my opinion by doing this. I want to bring in others’ opinions and speak for them.”
• Chris Smith: “I’m one of the two most fiscally conservative candidates,” Smith said. “Another reason is being retired, I am available full time.”
Smith said he likes to walk through town and observe things and talk with residents in order to stay in touch with the needs of the community. He said he would notice things like the fact that many older homes don’t have off-street parking and can’t comply with an ordinance requiring vehicles to be parked off the street during snow events.
• Jeremy Smith: “I bring a perspective and background in finance and facility management. I’ve got great energy; I’ve got a passion for this,” Smith said. “My call to duty is really high. I can’t explain it succinctly or well, but I feel called to serve and have great skills, talents and experiences that are different than the other candidates.
“I’ve lived in various communities around the country and will utilize all those experiences and focus on moving Dayton forward,” he continued.
• Has lived in Dayton his whole life and worked at Decker Coal Mine for 36 years
• Volunteer on Dayton Fire and Dayton Rescue for 28 years, 16 of which he served as fire chief
• Served on Dayton Town Council in the mid-1990s so has experience with budgets and town governance
• Secretary for Ranchester Dayton Rotary
• Married to Town Clerk Linda Lofgren with two children and five grandchildren
Lofgren said he decided to run because he had been involved with the community through the fire department for so many years, and it felt like a void when he wasn’t doing any service for the community.
“My father had told me a long time ago to be involved with the community, and I’d always taken that to heart, so that’s why I decided to,” Lofgren said, adding that he’d be happy and proud to serve the residents of Dayton.
• Has owned his own beekeeping business for 30 years, which he said has given him an appreciation of how money is made and what it means to take care of it
• Lifelong resident of Dayton and Ranchester area
• Past president of Wyoming Beekeepers Association and member of SueBee Honey
• Member of Cornerstone Church in Sheridan
Reed said his primary reason for running is to give a voice back to the people.
“Our voice sounds like the teacher in Charlie Brown. That’s how people sound to Dayton Town Council,” Reed said. “They just do not give people audience as far as listening to them. I’ve had enough of that as a citizen, taxpayer and resident.”
Reed said he is also concerned about financial waste and would like to lower taxes, particularly the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax.
“I’ve never voted for the One-Cent. Let’s wink when we call it the optional sales tax. My grandfather told me once we get it in, we will never get rid of it,” Reed said.
• Lifelong Dayton resident
• Has worked with the Wyoming Department of Transportation for 29 years, currently working in the engineering department
• Volunteer firefighter on Dayton Fire and Rescue for 18 years, 12 as assistant fire chief
• Has been part of the WYDOT Employee Association since he started and has served as president of several committees at work
Reichert said he has been asked by community members to run for council for years but wanted to wait until he was doing it for himself and the benefit of the town and not just because others wanted him to run.
He said he is about to wrap up his service with the fire department and wanted to continue to serve the town that has been his family’s home for years (incidentally, his grandfather was mayor of Dayton years ago).
“I’d like to try to get into the political side of it and keep the town running as good as possible,” Reichert said. “I’m not running to change a lot of things, just to step in and fill some shoes where there’s a void.”
• Entered politics in college when he was a registered lobbyist in the state Legislature in Colorado
• Regular attender of Dayton Town Council meetings
• Member of Dayton Planning Committee from 2011-2013
• Member of Juvenile Justice Joint Powers Board since 2010
• Dayton resident since 2009; bought a house in 2002 with intent of retiring in the area
• Retired electrical engineer
Smith noted that with three current council members running for mayor, the council is losing a lot of experience. He said since he regularly attends meetings, he is familiar with how the council operates and could step in smoothly.
Smith also said he’d like to bring his conservative fiscal ideas into play.
“The town has done well so far, but there’s still a tendency to spend money where it’s not necessary, and fiscal restraint is needed,” Smith said, noting that he’d like to transition organizations off of funds from the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax so the tax could be revoked.
• Sheridan County School District 1 business manager for 12 years
• Bachelor’s degree in business finance, economics minor; master’s in business administration
• Volunteer firefighter in Dayton for seven years, currently working as a training officer
• Served six years on the Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission
• Eagle Scout, military kid who was taught the importance of service from his dad
Smith said he offers a different perspective, being younger with a young family, and that he wants to utilize his talents in financial planning, facility maintenance, budgets and building partnerships to make Dayton a better place to live.
“Of all the places I know about, Dayton is the best I can imagine,” Smith said. “I think Dayton is really well managed. I want to help keep the good things moving forward and look for ways to expand our downtown businesses and things we can offer for our families.”
Smith also said he’d like to establish Dayton as a jump-off place for people seeking recreation in the Bighorn Mountains.