Six Candidates Contend for Two Natrona County Commission Seats
There's not much fat to cut in the Natrona County government budget, some of the six commission candidates said at a forum last week.
"I've seen a lot of budgets," David North said in response to a question about whether some county functions are necessary and whether they could be better handled by the private sector.
"It's a lot leaner than we think," said North, Fire Chief of the Town of Mills.
Brook Kaufman, the only incumbent in the race, said a lot of services are required by state law such as license tags and marriage licenses.
The forum at the Ramkota Hotel was sponsored by the Natrona County Public Library and the League of Women Voters.
All six candidates for the commission are Republicans and are seeking their party's nomination in the Aug. 18 primary. Republicans will choose two. There are no Democratic candidates for the five-member commission. Because there are no other candidates, the winners of the primary automatically will be the new commissioners.
The county recently approved its 2020-2021 budget: $42.6 million general fund budget -- funding public safety, parks, roads and bridges, the library and other services -- and another $6.1 million in restricted funds. A recent upturn in the COVID-19-hammered economy thwarted drastic cuts.
During the forum, Kevin Christopherson recalled his eight years on the Natrona County School Board and what it took to craft its budgets during previous lean years.
On the other hand, excavation business owner Jerry Cook said there always are budget cuts that can be made.
Vickery Fales-Hall, director of donor relations for the Wyoming Community Foundations, said that government should be as efficient as possible. However, private sector and nonprofit organizations can do only so much to provide services, she added.
V. Worth Christie said he would do more to talk with the residents of the county to get their views.
All the candidates said fiscal responsibility would be among their top priorities if elected.
Christie, North, Kaufman and Fales-Hall added they would emphasize diversifying the economy that has been so reliant on fossil fuels.
Cook and Kaufman said planning and zoning regulations need to be updated, if not made less restrictive.
Christopherson, North and Cook emphasized that they would do more to listen to the county residents who do not live in Casper or the other five municipalities in the county, and that they have an advantage because they themselves do not live within the Casper city limits.
The final question of the evening, one in which the candidates had 10 seconds to respond, asked what movie they would most identify with.
Fales-Hall -- "Princess Bride."
Kaufman -- "Heat."
North -- "Blazing Saddles."
Christopherson -- "Airbender.'
Christie -- "It's A Wonderful Life."
Cook -- "A Few Good Men."
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