GOP commission candidate Short says focus will be setting county up for future, maintaining roads


Matt Adelman

    A second member of the Converse County Commission has formally announced his plans to seek re-election in the past week, likely meaning all three members up for election this year will be on the ballot. Robert Short said Friday he will definitely run on the Republican ticket for a third term - ending any speculation that the top of the county ticket might have a totally open spot.

A week earlier, Jim Willox decided also to seek another term, his fifth if he is re-elected. The third seat open on the commission during this election cycle is held by Tony Lehner, another Republican strongly rumored to be tossing his hat into the ring again as well though he has yet to formally announce that.

Who may run against them, though, isn’t known for sure as the filing period for Republican and Democrat candidates doesn’t even begin until Thursday or end until May 27. However, the Converse County Clerk’s Office has received the required letter of support from the Constitution Party that Derek Joppru will seek their nomination for a commission position. While it won’t be known for sure who may challenge them for the positions, political observers have been predicting some opposition from within the Republican ranks.

For his part, Short shied away from getting into the internal GOP fray during his announcement and focused on county priorities as he sees them.

“The first time (I was elected, there) was a group of people who really thought forward insofar as setting up the county for future successes. We’ve been very fortunate as a Board of Commissioners to be able to act on what they did, to put in place those pieces that have allowed us, for example, to build the Justice Center.

“I think it’s important that we put that same focus in effect for the next term to help the group that comes after us be set up for success. And that’s really what I’m going to focus on this term.”

Besides finish modernizing and moving the court system to its new home on E. Richards in Douglas, which will put the courts and attorneys in the same complex as the police, sheriff and jail, Short said the county needs to continue stressing infrastructure, most importantly roads.

“Working on making sure our Road and Bridge Department is fully staffed and equipped to deal with those roads” remains a key part of his agenda, he said because the roads are vital not only for residents and ag but for the energy sector that pays the bulk of the bills in the county.

The county has increased spending on roads and bridges this past year by about 20%, Short noted, and he believes that may have to be increased more in the coming budget because they are that important.

But at the same time, he cautioned, property taxes are increasing and putting a burden on citizens and that has to be taken into consideration.

“There is one thing I want as a commissioner to do to help those most impacted by rising valuations. I want to ensure that the property tax relief program is funded and people are made aware of it. For the group of folks we were talking about, fixed income and limited income types, this program will provide about 50% tax relief. There are qualifications that folks must meet, but the groups mentioned will (qualify) in most cases, I believe,” he said. 

At the same time, Short realizes property valuations are going up for most residents, yet the commissioners’ role in taxation – setting the mil levy – is a double edged sword. If they lower the mil levy to help out homeowners – albeit a small amount probably in many cases– it will lower the tax bill for energy companies that pay the lion’s share of the taxes in the county, thus hurting what the county is able to do with things like roads and wages.

“This isn’t just about county workers. This isn’t just about folks living on fixed income. It’s everywhere in between. We have to make sure that we’re making a decision on what is going to do the least amount of damage to people but yet continue to fund the county in a way that folks who are expecting so that we have those memory revenues that pay for everything for the most part, right?

“If it was, you know, solely resting on my shoulders, I would be looking at the tightest possible budget that we can for the county with an eye towards we know that there’s some construction that has to happen over the next few years, so making sure we’re parking away a few dollars for that, but no more than absolutely necessary. So it may mean, you know, lower than the maximum mil.”

Besides his goals for the county, Short said he wants to continue serving on a number of boards and groups around the state that have an impact on Converse County. One is the Wyoming Workforce Development commission, and others are the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s advisory council, and Wyoming County Commissioner Association committee on environment and energy.

He is also chairman of a  new initiative for Washington, D.C. staffers “from both sides of the aisle” to come to Wyoming and learn about energy and the state.

“This is such an incredible opportunity to impact those people who influence our decision makers in D.C., especially on the other side of the aisle, in understanding how policies being made impact Wyoming, which (also helps them understand that) Wyoming impacts the entirety of the country, whether they know it or not,” he said.

The biggest impact, Short said, might be from having both Republican and Democrat staffers on the tour and hearing the same message, which they will relay back to their bosses.

“I instructed our entire crew about how important it is that we show them hospitality regardless of their political ideology. You know, I grew up in this state and we didn’t care what side of the political spectrum you stood on, if you were interested in going fishing, we’re going fishing. I don’t care if you are, you know, a dyed-in-the-wool blue Dem. Knock yourself out, but if you like fishing for rainbows. Let’s go,” he said. “You know, that’s that kind of understanding that we’re all humans in the end. I think that’s what helps build these bridges that can help shape policy.”

That reasoning, Short said, is why he is willing to work to get things done rather than just fight with people with opposing views.

“Yeah, this whole nonsense about we need to fight anybody with opposing views, that’s stagnation. That’s a great way for us to do nothing, and I’m not interested in doing nothing. I’m interested in doing what we can to help build a place that has got future potential for our great, great, great-grandchildren.”

Finally, Short said, the county needs its leaders to continue to work on making minerals sustainable and manageable, which means working with the federal government.

“We need to be certain that we are doing everything we can to help BLM who manages all federal minerals. Understand that anything, any policies they implement have an instantaneous impact on us, and we need to help them understand  that . . . (and) what we’re doing on a county level and the state level to mitigate unwanted outcomes associated with extraction. For example, we do a great job in this state of balancing ecological and economical concerns.”

Not only is the county dealing with oil and gas development and the ongoing issues with coal, they are refocused on uranium deposits here – the largest in the world and a Natrium reactor proposed in the state – but also the proposed hydrogen plant and a recirculating hydroelectric plants proposed for south of Glenrock, Short pointed out.

While supports energy development Short said he is also very concerned about the hydrogen plant idea because of the volume of water it would consume.

“So, you know, I get the idea behind hydrogen but you know the what was the saying here? Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over. The amount of water that would be necessary for that kind of facility is concerning. The Madison, being a very deep aquifer course, is being tapped all over the state. . . Some use it for drinking water. Some of it is used for disposal. Same formation, but yet that’s being utilized for these two different purposes.

“I’m not necessarily certain that drawing down these aquifers, especially as we see an increasing propensity in our local climates towards less rain, meaning less refill of these aquifers, (that) should really be drawn down to nothing.”


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