After some backlash, the Laramie City Council voted Tuesday to reconsider whether to submit a bid for the Wyoming Association of Municipalities summer conference in 2020.
Councilwoman Jessica Stalder said she brought the measure back after members of the Albany County Tourism Board urged council to consider the “economic impact it would have.”
The hospitality industry, too, was upset with the council’s narrow March vote to reject the city’s submission of a bid for the Wyoming Association of Municipalities summer conference in 2020; Vice Mayor Pat Gabriel said he received several emails from hotel and restaurant owners in the county expressing how beneficial the event would be to them if Laramie’s were chosen to host the event.
Leading up to the March vote, some council members voiced their concerns with WAM’s ability to advocate for larger cities like Laramie, especially in the state Legislature.
Recently, J. David Fraser transitioned into the role of executive director of WAM, and Councilman Brian Harrington said the change poses a “unique opportunity” to try to help alleviate some of the council’s concerns.
“I do view hosting the conference in 2020 as an opportunity for our council to really form WAM into what we hope it to be,” Harrington said during the meeting. “I also think it’s significant to ask all of council to really actively participate because I think the more voices we have in those rooms and conversations, the more effective WAM can be.”
Mayor Joe Shumway said he had the chance to talk with Fraser, and the city is working to host WAM representatives including Fraser for a work session discussing “what they bring to the table.”
Frustrated with WAM’s representation of Laramie’s needs, Councilman Paul Weaver said he wanted to set up a tour for the WAM representatives detailing some of Laramie’s infrastructure concerns. City Manager Janine Jordan said the city already gives “off the beaten path” tours when it hosts city, state or other government officials to give them a true picture of Laramie’s needs.
“I really see it as an opportunity to educate our 98 sister cities about the unique circumstances that Laramie has, and help them see beyond the millions and millions of dollars in appropriation that have gone to the UW campus in the last decade that don’t necessarily create a return in our community or alleviate our need,” Jordan said during the meeting.
If Laramie were to get the bid, Stalder said during the meeting she would like to see more local businesses involved in hosting the events and workshops for the conference.
Initially, Councilwoman Erin O’Doherty expressed some reservations about the price to host the conference compared to the benefit, especially considering many of the WAM conference attendees would be exempt from paying lodging taxes. She ultimately changed her vote to approve the bid.
Weaver said while he’s still skeptical of WAM, he voted in the affirmative to “support Laramie.”
The council voted to approve the bid submission 8-1, with Councilwoman Jayne Pearce voting again “no” for a second time. She said she would not reconsider the bid because she’s “waited long enough.”
WAM will decide the host city after considering bids from cities around Wyoming, including Laramie.