The League of Women Voters of Wyoming has been leading candidate forums for political races in Albany County over the last several weeks. Forums take place virtually and are not open to the public. At a later date, they’re posted on the league’s YouTube page, youtube.com/user/WYLWV.
A forum featuring candidates for Albany County Board of Commissioners and Clerk of District Court took place Sept. 22. It was posted to YouTube for public viewing on Tuesday.
County commission candidatesIncumbent Terri Jones, a Republican, faces Democrat challenger Sue Ibarra and Independent candidate Klaus Halbsgut in the race for a seat on the Albany County Board of Commissioners.
Jones said she’s running to build on the accomplishments of her first four-year term.
“I’d like for us to continue accomplishing more,” she said.
Ibarra said she’s motivated to run because she has a history of service in the city and county.
“I also have a lot of history working in the community on various activist projects,” she said.
Halbsgut said he’s running to bring his experience as a business owner to the county’s coming economic challenges.
“I want to bring that knowledge to the county commission, and hopefully we can get through this pandemic without too much pain,” he said.
The county commission meets twice a month on Tuesday mornings. Ibarra said she would support moving meetings to the evening hours so more people could attend or access them online.
“What would be better is to have a meetings in the evening after 5 p.m., when these hard-working people can attend in person or have public input,” she said.
Halbsgut said he would consider having meetings on different days of the week or perhaps occasional weekends.
“It’s not set in stone that is always has to be on Tuesday,” he said. “I would be willing to change to a different day.”
Jones said meetings should be at a consistent day and time for easier access, and it was important that they be during a weekday because that’s when government offices are open.
“The commission is the arm of the state government, and they operate from 9-5, and we need to be consistent to them,” she said.
Halbsgut said he’s “pro-development” and “pro-business” and wants to attract renewable energy development to the county.
“I am pro-wind and -solar,” he said. “That is the future of our nation. That is the direction we’re heading in. Why can’t Albany County be a part of that?”
Ibarra said she also supports wind and solar development, though health and safety concerns should be considered in the permitting process.
“I would advocate for slowing down the adoption of regulations and looking at things a little bit closer,” she said.
Jones said regulations need to be clear and not in flux so developers can plan projects without facing unforeseen expenses.
“We need to look at any kind of energy development that we can, whether it be wind or solar,” she said.
Regarding clean drinking water, Halbsgut said one of the main reasons he’s running is to protect the Casper Aquifer. He pointed to Interstate 80, the Tumbleweed Express gas station and residential septic systems as possible contaminants.
“We’ve got to be worried about the gas station,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if those tanks will leak. It’s a matter of when those tanks will leak. They’re 51 years old. They’re going to leak, folks. It’s going to happen. The aquifer cannot sustain that type of contamination.”
Jones said the commission is in the process of developing protection for the aquifer along Interstate 80, which remains the overwhelming threat of contamination. She said septic system technology is progressing and testing of Tumbleweed tanks shows they’re safe.
“It’s that three million gallons of gas and other materials coming over I-80 (every day) that’s our major concern,” Jones said.
Ibarra said she, too, is running in part to protect the aquifer.
“Once our aquifer is gone, we are hosed as a city and as a county,” she said. “No one is going to be coming to Laramie to do any kind of development or to do any kind of business if our aquifer is lost.”
In the face of a looming budget shortfall, Jones said the county should look to boost revenue through energy development instead of trying to cut an already lean budget even more.
“I’m a firm believer in the U.S. Constitution and private property rights,” she said. “That’s where I’m going to come from.”
Halbsgut said the budget is the most pressing issue facing the commission, but it shouldn’t lose sight of protecting its most vulnerable citizens.
“The county residents are going to need to step up to the plate,” he said. “We’re going to have some tough choices.”
Ibarra said she would resist making personnel cuts and would instead look to boost county revenue and streamline services.
“What we cannot do is continue to cut departments and personnel,” she said. “We need to support county employees with funds they need to run their departments.”
Clerk of district court candidates
Republican Stacy Lam is running for clerk of district court against Democrat Jennifer Hanft. Lam was appointed to fill the position in July 2019 after the retirement of Janice Sexton. The winner will be required to run for re-election when the four-year term expires in 2022.
Lam did not attend the forum, citing the need to prepare for a jury trial amid increased COVID-19 precautions. Her son, Riley, read a statement instead. Lam said her 29 years of experience in the office has prepared her to carry out all aspects of the position.
“Successful leaders earn their position by doing the job — something I have done for the last three decades,” she writes.
Hanft said she brings more than 24 years of legal experience to the campaign.
“There is a distinction between experience and expertise,” she said. “We need to bring expertise in at this time.”
She said she would work to improve confidentiality and increase access to public records, especially for those representing themselves in legal matters.
“I feel like that access to public records is paramount to access to justice,” she said.