Unlike most candidates, I was not born and raised in Wyoming. I am here by choice. This gives me a unique perspective on the issues that face Wyoming and different ideas on how to correct the problems while maintaining the reasons I chose to live here.
I was born in Texas in 1959 while my father was stationed in the US Army. Upon his discharge, we moved to South Dakota where he worked on the dams on the Missouri River. My mother was a stay at home mom until she went to work when I was in high school.
Growing up along the Missouri River in Pickstown, Fort Pierre, and Yankton with a 3-year stint in Stockton, Missouri I learned about small-town life, family, taking care of your neighbors. I also developed my love of hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors.
Growing up in small towns I was taught that everyone needed to contribute to the good of the community; be it by joining the volunteer fire department, running for school board, belonging to the many civic organizations, or just helping when someone needed it.
Western and central South Dakota is a lot like Park County and Wyoming where the main industry is farming and ranching, a few small businesses, and a little state and federal government jobs.
In 1976, even before graduating high school, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I served 3 years as a firefighter in Spangdahlem AB, Germany during the cold war and Iranian hostage crisis. I finished my 4-year commitment at F.E. Warren, AFB, Wyoming.
Release from Active Duty was not the end of my military service. I joined the South Dakota Air National Guard in Sioux Falls. During that time I was deployed to England, Belgium, and Panama. I was activated during Desert Storm and served with the 37 Tactical Fighter Wing, home of the F-117 Stealth Fighter.
I later transferred to the Air Force Reserve and was stationed in Offutt, AFB, Nebraska and Mountain Home, AFB, Idaho. In September 2001 I was activated for Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom, retiring in 2003 as a Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt).
Upon my discharge in 1981 I was hired as a firefighter by Sioux Falls Fire Rescue in South Dakota. I worked as a firefighter/EMT for 27 years retiring as a Captain in 2008. Working in a city that was a one employer town, that worried about the impact of a slow down at the packing house in 1981 I saw the impact that diversifying the economy can have. In 2008 the city had more than doubled its population, business was thriving, people were moving in from all parts of the world, people had jobs with living wages and your children no longer had to move away to make it.
Today, Wyoming is at the same point Sioux Falls was in 1981. It is time to embrace the future and not fear it. During my time on SFFR, I became involved in trying to improve the lives of my fellow firefighters and their families. I served as a steward, negotiator, secretary, and president for International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local #814. I also served as the South Dakota State Representative to the IAFF where I worked with other departments, cities, and the state Legislature.
In 1987 I was elected to the Sioux Falls Firefighters Pension Board. My first meeting was 4 days after the Stock Market Crash; our fund was under $2 million, due to over a decade of underfunding. I spent 12 years on the Board with many of them as Chairman. When I stepped down the fund had over $60 million, we had given pensions back to widows of firefighters that were killed in the line of duty; we had increased benefits to past and future retirees, we prefunded guaranteed cost of living raises, all while lowering the cost to the taxpayer. It can be done if you work smarter.
In 1984 I married my wife Sandy and we raised our two children, Heather and Matt. Along the way, we were able to host foreign exchange students from Moldova, old East and West Germany, Mexico, and Brazil. This helped to expand our family’s appreciation of others and learn that we have more in common with each other than we have differences.
In 2006 we decided to move to Wyoming upon retirement and purchased land in Clark. In 2008 I moved to Clark and we began construction, Sandy followed in 2009 when our home in SD sold. I run my wildland firefighting business, Dragon Fighter, Inc. from here. Sandy went to work for Marathon Oil only to lose her job to the downturn in the oil market. She now works at Westside Elementary in Powell. We plan to stay here and it is now time to start giving back to keep this the place we want to live.