Valley native running for governor stumps for diversified economy.
By Thomas Dewell, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: June 30, 2010
Matt Mead’s vision for diversifying the state economy includes building data centers, improving connectivity, offering a stable regulatory environment and looking forward.
While Wyoming enjoys considerable oil, gas and mineral deposits, the state must take advantage of its other assets, as well as cheap power and a cool climate, as it diversifies, the GOP gubernatorial candidate said. Wyoming must do more than rely on its natural wonders to satisfy residents and attract new businesses, he said.
“You can’t eat scenery,” Mead said last week.
Mead is one of seven candidates running for the Republican nomination ahead of the Aug. 17 primary. He visited Jackson on Thursday to meet the public at an open afternoon gathering and attend a private cocktail party at the home of Jackson Hole News&Guide Co-publisher Elizabeth McCabe.
At the Thursday night event, Mead fielded questions on topics such as the economy, wolves, education, safety in oil and gas fields and the impact of the Tea Party on state politics. During the question-and-answer session, state Sen. Grant Larson, R-Jackson, stated why he is supporting Mead.
Mead’s lack of ties to the Capitol gives him the edge over other leading candidates, Larson said.
Mead, a Teton County native who lives in Cheyenne, has served as a U.S. attorney, county prosecutor and Wyoming special assistant attorney general. He has worked in the private sector as an attorney and is a fourth-generation Wyoming rancher.
“All of the others have some tie to state government,” Larson said of the top contenders in the GOP race. “Matt is offering a fresh viewpoint on Wyoming.”
The other three frontrunners are Fort Bridger rancher and former state legislator Ron Micheli; state Auditor Rita Meyer, of Cheyenne; and Wyoming Speaker of the House Colin Simpson, of Cody. The other candidates are Alan Kousoulos, a Wyoming Department of Transportation employee from Cody; Sheridan resident John Self, who has run twice for governor; and Laramie resident Tom Ubben, an energy company employee.
Mead’s views counter those of Micheli, who has said he is willing to return Wyoming to the past when government was smaller and a different ethic prevailed.
Mead said Wyoming is a forward-looking state, and if it encourages businesses such as data centers, it can effectively add value to the electricity produced in the state. Such centers generate considerable heat while operating, and the state’s cool climate would help reduce operating costs, he said.
Wyoming also needs to press for power lines to ship wind energy outside the state, Mead said. The lines, which would be used only a portion of the time to send wind energy, could be used to transmit energy from natural gas-fired plants in the state, he said.
Mead supports the state’s wolf managment plan, which offers some protection of the animals in and around national parks while classifying them as predators outside the northwest portion of the state. Where the plan classifies them as predators, they could be killed without a license.
The federal government has not dealt in good faith with the state, he said, which has resulted in the state suing the federal government for rejecting its wolf plan.
The state should continue to press for managing wolves as it sees fit, Mead said.
On education, the state needs to do a better job recognizing the problems teachers face, Mead said. As energy workers move into and out of the state, their children enter and leave classrooms, making it difficult to teach them, he said. He said tests need to do a better job of assessing what children are getting from school and not just look at students at one point in time.
Mead noted he had been endorsed by the Wyoming Education Association.
Thursday morning, Mead told the Jackson Hole Daily that he believes he is the frontrunner for the GOP nomination for governor.
“As we travel around, people seem very enthused about the campaign,” he said.
– Cara Rank contributed to this report.