New Casper City Council Members Take Oath of Office; Outgoing Members Grateful for Service
The nonpartisan Casper City Council on Tuesday welcomed four new members and one re-elected incumbent who expressed their hopes for the next two years, and said farewell to four others who expressed their thanks for the opportunity to serve.
"My hope is that on council we may agree and disagree with one another as part of a robust productive decision-making process," new member Amber Pollock said before Mayor Steve Freel administered the oath of office to her and the other council members.
"Second, is that we will be sensitive to the well-being and prosperity of our community and its citizens in all of our dialogue ...," Pollock said. "And last that we can work to practice to actively engage in the collective work of building and maintaining the community, a process that is never-ending and requirers civic engagement...."
Besides Pollock, the new council members sworn in were Lisa Engebretsen, Kyle Gamroth and Bruce Knell, who were elected in the Nov. 3 general election. Incumbent Steve Cathey won re-election and was sworn in, too.
Pollock and Knell represent Ward I in central Casper. The other Ward I representative is incumbent and outgoing Vice Mayor Khyrstyn Lutz.
Gamroth and Engebretsen represent Ward II in west Casper. They defeated incumbent council member Ken Bates. The other Ward II council member is Shawn Johnson.
Cathey represents Ward III in east Casper. The other Ward III council members are Freel and Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco.
The newly elected council members thanked the voters and their family members for their support.
Freel administered the oath of office to them, City Clerk Fleur Tremel administered the oath to Freel and Pacheco.
Before the oaths, outgoing council members Bates, Bob Hopkins, Mike Huber and Charlie Powell shared some experiences from their tenures, especially in the past year with the double-tap of the energy industry decline and COVID-19.
Bates was gracious in his departing words, and complimented the city staff and those on the boards he served. He learned an immense amount about the city and its functions that few know about.
Bates always dressed well for meetings because people dress well for their bosses who are the city's residents, and he did everything he could to support Casper, he said. "Thank you so much for letting me serve you."
Huber, like other outgoing council members, stressed the importance of the basic jobs of the city: police, fire, water, sewer, streets and other infrastructure.
He also chided those who might ridicule city employees as slackers, leaning on their shovels at job sites "We don't have any shovel-leaners in Casper -- it's a work ethic from the bottom up and the top down."
Hopkins, who joined the council in 2013, also complimented the city staff, saying they were as good as any employees in any corporation he's known, he said.
Among the changes on the horizon, Hopkins said market-rate housing in the downtown area is coming. He added the city should consider helping Natrona County to build a new library.
Powell recounted a litany of changes in the past decade.
The city has replaced three fire stations by building new ones, built a new maintenance building, made significant changes to the long-neglected Hogadon Ski Area, performed earth work on the city-owned land used by the YMCA, supported the Boys and Girls Club, helped the Wyoming Medical Center with the new Masterson Place for families whose loved ones are in the hospital, expanded trails, built a new pool at Mike Cedar Park, upgraded facilities at the Casper Events Center, and supported the development of the David Street Station downtown.
The downturn in the energy industry and the resulting loss of tax revenues led to the city having to trim 20% of its work force and did that through attrition rather than layoffs.
The new council will need to grapple with how to pay for a new Fire Station No. 1, build a new police station, and upgrade the nearly 70-year-old Sam Hobbs Wastewater Treatment Plant, perform maintenance on its deteriorating streets, and continue with the Platte River Rehabilitation projects.
The outgoing council members didn't mention some of the turbulent times regarding the fallout from former City Managers John Patterson and V.H. McDonald, nor the controversies over former Police Chief Jim Wetzel and former Fire-EMS Chief Kenneth King and their respective departments.
Powell said the new council members often will face decisions that must balance public safety with personal liberty. "You will receive a great deal of free advice."
Like the other outgoing members, he said the city must focus on its basic infrastructure and services.
But the most important asset is the city staff because everything depends on them, Powell said.
Finally, he said he remains optimistic for the future.
"I believe Casper's best days are ahead of us," Powell said.
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