Former Wyoming Governor Sullivan Honored
The National Western Stock Show has named former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan the 2016 Citizen of the West, an award that recognizes those who embody the spirit and determination of the Western pioneer and perpetuate the West’s agricultural heritage and ideals. A committee of community leaders selects the recipients.
Sullivan was elected Wyoming’s 29th governor in 1986 and re-elected in 1990, the year of Wyoming’s centennial. He will receive the prestigious award at a dinner on January 11, 2016 at the National Western Events Center. Proceeds from the event support 80 scholarships awarded annually to colleges and universities in Colorado and Wyoming by the National Western Scholarship Trust.
“What most distinguishes Mike is not just what he has accomplished but how he went about getting things done,” said Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. “Mike's life and work exemplify the values we treasure in the West -- integrity, honor, sincerity, intelligence, humility, humor and warmth. Mike is a western treasure."
Sullivan has deep roots in Wyoming and the West. His father and grandfather were attorneys in Douglas and Laramie, respectively. His maternal grandfather was an engineer for the Union Pacific in Wyoming and Colorado. Sullivan was born in Omaha and grew up in Douglas, Wyo. He earned an engineering degree and a law degree from the University of Wyoming.
He started his law career in Casper with Brown, Drew, Massey and Sullivan, where he was a successful generalist and accomplished trial attorney, practicing largely in rural Wyoming with clients from all walks of life.
His tenure as governor began during a time of great economic distress, with declining revenues and increasing unemployment in Wyoming due to falling oil and gas prices. He successfully navigated the turmoil by cutting expenses and working collaboratively with the Republican legislature.
“Here is a real westerner, a great Wyoming Governor; a straight shooter and a loyal friend” said former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson.
Following his second term, Sullivan resumed his law practice in Casper. He also served as a fellow in the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School at Harvard University, teaching a seminar on the unique political and policy issues of the Rocky Mountain West.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton named Sullivan U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. During his tenure, he helped facilitate the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the peace accord in Northern Ireland. U.S. Presidential Special Envoy George Mitchell said “it couldn’t have been done without Mike.” Sullivan served as ambassador for two-and-a-half years.
He returned to Wyoming to re-establish a law practice in association with the Denver firm of Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons, LLC.
Sullivan’s career inspired former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal to say that “Sullivan is not just a citizen of the west but a citizen of the world. His relentless efforts to summon the better angels of the human spirit are the trademark of his personal and professional life.”
In addition to serving on the Boards of First Interstate Bancsystem and Cimarex Energy Co., Sullivan has been an unflagging supporter of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo. He also remained active with his alma mater, the University of Wyoming, which has honored his family on several occasions, including the naming of the Sullivan Family Student Center and the Sullivan Plaza in the College Education.
Sullivan is married to the former Jane Metzler whom he met while both were students at the University of Wyoming. They have three children and seven grandchildren.