Even in his youth, Tim Sullivan knew being a county commissioner is the only job he ever wanted.
But as a self-described “two-termer,” the Albany County Commission chairman, who wraps up his fourth elected term — and second consecutive term — to the board in January, said he will not run for re-election this year.
“I’m a term-limiter for sure,” Sullivan said. “After two terms, you’re part of the problem instead of part of the solution … on the policy board I think it’s important to get fresh ideas.”
Sullivan’s family has long had ties to the region; his grandparents moved to Albany County in 1905, and his grandfather, J.R., later served as the county attorney. His father, B. J., was a doctor at Ivinson Memorial Hospital and delivered thousands of children — including Sullivan’s colleague, Commissioner Tim Chesnut.
Born in 1949, Sullivan, the fourth of five siblings, spent his early years bullriding in the Little Britches Rodeo and helping out at the ranches of family friends.
“It was great,” he said. “This was the most wonderful town in the world back then — well, it still is. It’s a great place.”
A Vietnam War veteran, Sullivan was drafted into the U.S. Army and served two years as a sergeant in the 1st Cavalry Division. He returned to Laramie in 1970 and graduated from the University of Wyoming four years later with a degree in accounting.
He had a number of jobs during the next 18 years, first working for the Wyoming Department of Economic and Development and later as an accountant in Casper. He spent several years in Grand Junction, Colorado, as a chief financial officer before moving to North Carolina to work for a software company. In 1987, he founded his own software company, Management Information Plus, which he continues to run to this day.
In 1991, he felt the pull of Laramie once more and returned with his family. The following year, he was elected to the Albany County Commission, and again in 1996.
“I ran on a lark,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d get elected — but you know, old family ties, and I knew everybody in town, so that’s how I got elected, I think.”
Those first eight years in the county government were difficult financially, and the commissioners were forced to make numerous cuts. At times, the county was unable to buy computers or office furniture, or even afford paper, Sullivan said.
“The state finances were really in the doldrums, and we didn’t have any money in Albany County, and we were really strapped for money and couldn’t get wages,” Sullivan said. “Literally, we had starting sheriff’s deputies and employees — if they had a spouse and one child, they qualified for food stamps. I mean, that’s what our salaries were. It was horrible.”
From 2000-2004, Sullivan served as the chair of the Albany County Fire Board. He didn’t think he would run for a commission seat again, but when he discovered no Democrat was running in the 2008 race, he decided to enter the fray once more. He was re-elected in 2012.
During that time, the commission approved a number of major projects, including a Hospice of Laramie Hospice House to provide end-of-life care to Albany County residents, voted for a grant to renovate the Lincoln Community Center and created a county emergency management/Homeland Security coordinator position.
Sullivan said his objectives have been to keep the budget tight and maintain and develop good working relationship with other officials.
“I think the most important thing is just the cohesiveness of the rest of the board and the elected officials,” he said. “That’s the one thing I’ve strived to do — is get everybody to get along and get along better.”
Chesnut said the commission’s greatest accomplishments include the passage of the county’s special purpose tax, which played a major role in funding the Laramie Community Recreation Center, and avoiding layoffs of county employees.
“Tim’s very thoughtful and a fiscally sound and conservative politician that cares about transparency and how the people’s money is being spent,” Chesnut said.
Commissioner Heber Richardson, the newest member to join the board, said Sullivan has been a good mentor who taught him the ropes of running a county government.
“I really admire how he runs a good meeting,” he said. “I like the flexibility that he has in a meeting that he gives the public time to speak. He always lets the public speak about anything they want and for as long as they want. And that’s a good thing. Our meetings are open and generally people don’t leave the meetings feeling like they didn’t get heard or weren’t respected … it’s something that I appreciate and respect.”
Sullivan said he plans to spend his time after elected office with his work and his family — he has four children, five grandchildren and one grandchild on the way.
The best part of being a commissioner has been the people he works with, he said.
“I’ve been with probably six different commissioners, and it’s just been great,” he said. “Everybody’s been great. Worked with all the elected officials, department heads and all the employees. It really is like a family.”