SHERIDAN — “I’ll do anything it takes between now and next Tuesday,” Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young said in one of his last public addresses before the Sheridan College bond issue is put to a public vote.
Young promised to appear at workplaces and arrange tours of the existing technical facility over the weekend to hopefully convince an on-the-fence voter to support the initiative.
This month’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon was a last-hour appeal among a sympathetic group. Young acknowledged he was preaching to the choir, but extended a challenge to every supporter of the college bond initiative to recruit five other voters for Tuesday’s special election.
In addition to repeating key facts to make the case for the college renovation funded via property tax, Young emphasized that Sheridan College is one of the fastest growing two-year colleges in the United States. It’s 50 percent bigger today than it was 10 years ago, and projections suggest growth of the school will continue as much as 30 percent into the next decade.
Young said the three fields to be emphasized in the expansion — machine tool technology, welding and diesel mechanics — are among the highest performing graduates in the nation. Graduates of these programs find employment quickly and are paid a living wage.
Along with a slew of high-profile community leaders who endorse the initiative, including Mayor Dave Kinskey, Chamber of Commerce CEO Dixie Johnson and the Sheridan County Board of Commissioners, Sue Belish of the Wyoming State Board of Education has thrown her weight behind the bond.
“I’ve done a lot of homework about the tech program, and what I’ve learned about it is…they’re providing ability, possibility and hope,” Belish said.
One community leader who has chosen not to take a public position is Jesus Rios, chair of the Sheridan County Republican Party.
“Our committee hasn’t had a chance to discuss the issue and make a resolution, so the party doesn’t have a formal position,” Rios said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
“From what I gather, there’s mixed support in the (Sheridan County) Republican party. The people who like it like that it will support businesses and help grow the economy. The people against it oppose it because it’s new taxation. It’s just more money out of the average Joe’s pocket.” Rios said.
Belish said Sheridan College presently contributes $80 million each year to the county’s economy, and with the college’s expansion, that contribution will become greater.
Ken Thorpe, president of the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, urged Sheridan County citizens to view it as an investment.
“This is one of those scenarios where you have to spend money to make money,” Thorpe said.
He said a Sheridan County resident who votes in Tuesday’s election will have a big voice on matters directly related to life at the local level.
“Oftentimes during elections, we feel our votes go unnoticed or unneeded in Wyoming when you compare the population of our state compared to other states in the nation. But, next Tuesday, your vote will be heard,” Thorpe said. “This election is a Sheridan County election, and every one of your votes will count.”