So there was the new governor – standing by the copier patiently waiting for some copies to print. He was making a little banter with Alfrieda Gonzales who keeps things humming in his front office while chatting with the plain-clothed highway patrolman, who serves as security man and all-around helper.
Making his own copies?
Mark Gordon promised to run a lean operation but this was impressive.
Finding the governor’s office in the maze that is the Jonah Building in Cheyenne can be difficult. And the governor’s office is definitely not opulent.
Sometimes it is important to compare perception to reality. I have known Mark Gordon for more than ten years and always found him an easy-going, “comfortable in his own skin” kind of guy.
But during that crazy Republican Governor Primary Campaign of 2018, Gordon often seemed nervous and uncomfortable during public speaking. Compared to his primary adversaries, Foster Friess, Harriet Hageman, Sam Galeotos, and Taylor Haynes, Gordon often competed in a tentative manner among that group in joint appearances.
Gordon was great in one-on-one and small group situations. He started out the front-runner and ended up an easy winner.
As governor, he is much more composed than he appeared as a candidate.
One example was watching him answer 23 questions from 200 members of the Wyoming Press Association at that group’s annual convention last week. They peppered him with tough queries over lunch. The reporters and publishers all chowed down and asked questions while Gordon’s own meal was getting cold.
He was confident and decisive. In a word, he was “gubernatorial.”
There are high expectations for him as governor. This is the first time in 50 years that Wyoming has a chief executive who comes into office having served in one of the state’s top five statewide offices. His past six years as state treasurer have prepared him well. He has served on those important state boards and attended countless meetings. He has heard hundreds of hours of important testimony and made scores of critical votes.
His learning curve is not steep. The people of Wyoming are expecting a lot.
In his first television campaign ad back during that primary election, the future governor was shown in his cowboy clothes and the message implied that he could round up cattle so he can also round up Legislators.
The true test of Gordon’s success as governor will be how he deals with the Legislature.
In recent sessions, the Legislature has flexed its muscles and occasionally ignored the executive branch. Gordon expressed a conciliatory tone during this state of the state address. The general belief is that Gordon is a moderate. But he tilted more to the right, politically, since being elected. The Legislature seems to be controlled by conservatives and Gordon is sounding more conservative all the time. Based on this, you would assume they will all get along just fine.
He says he prefers a lean government, which is reflected by the spare staff he has so far surrounded himself in the governor’s office.
A big issue during the primary was Wyoming’s lack of transparency. Gordon operated his State Treasurer’s office in a transparent manner. He told the Wyoming Press he wants to be “the most transparent governor” ever.
He and new state Auditor Kristi Racines have teamed up with a transparency initiative and formed a working group to try to open up Wyoming’s books more. Good luck on this and it will be a breath of fresh air when that happens. Wyoming is just one of three states in the U.S.A. that does not offer total transparency.
His wife Jennie was with the governor when I interviewed him. She says she has not decided what special emphasis she will promote as First Lady. They obviously make a good team. They have not moved into the governor’s residence as some repairs and modifications needed to be made.
They are staying in the house they already own in Cheyenne. Mark has also opted to keep his Ford Expedition rather than getting a new governor’s car. “It works just fine. No need to change,” he says.
Wyoming has moved slightly out of the recessionary times that haunted the state the last few years. This should help Gordon as he finds his way as our new state leader.
Gordon is the sixth Wyoming governor that I have interviewed and gotten to know over the past almost five decades. He seems to be coming into the office with a real Wyoming tail wind.