Seven Casper residents have applied to fill Todd Murphy’s vacant City Council seat following his sudden resignation in early April.
The applicants include well-known faces such as attorney Dallas Laird, businessman Tim Kugler and former Republican U.S. House candidate Paul Paad, along with political newcomers like activist Grace Niemitalo.
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The city had been struggling to recruit applicants for the vacancy, and as late as last week Council members were pushing for more people to apply.
Other applicants are Ken Bates, Lauri Gobble and Monte Henrie Jr.
“I just want to give back to Casper,” said Gobble. She owns Roundtop Pump Supply with her husband.
Niemitalo, who helped found a local feminist group last fall, said she was interested in engaging younger Casperites and having more women on Council.
“I want to be a different voice,” she said. Niemitalo is a student and volunteers as a sexual assault advocate.
Henrie said he will soon begin working with the Casper Reentry Center and has previously served on the Planning and Zoning Commision and Old Yellowstone District advisory board. He is interested in continuing to support the OYD and encourage more development in west Casper.
“In Ward 2 I’ve seen a lot of decrease on the west side of town where I live, which I’d like to see more going on with,” he said.
Contact information for Bates and Kugler was not immediately available.
Laird said that his perspective as a lawyer could help City Council, just as Chris Walsh, a former police chief and current councilman, brings valuable knowledge to the body.
“It’s a good council,” he said. “They’ve been faced with a lot of historic issues... and they’re not easy issues, and I’d like to see a team effort.”
Laird is involved in litigation with the city of Casper over how the municipal court has been sentencing minors convicted of alcohol possession. If he is appointed to the Council, he would help oversee the City Attorney’s office.
Laird suggested in an interview last month that city leadership could benefit from more expertise when it came to handling recent issues, including morale problems at the Casper Police Department and the sudden retirement of City Manager V.H. McDonald, both in early April.
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“What’s going on with the city right now isn’t difficult,” Laird said. “But if they tell you go do heart surgery and you don’t know how to do heart surgery, it’s real difficult.”
Paad wants Council to be more assertive in dealing with city business, pointing to the role of the city manager and oversight of the police department.
“I think the Council is moving toward being less complacent, and I think that’s where we need to go,” he said. “I just want to see if I can help them go in that direction.”
Paad lost the Republican primary for the open U.S. House seat to Liz Cheney last August. He campaigned on a platform of cutting government funding for Planned Parenthood, reducing regulations on mines in the state and halting immigration.
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He said the United States should not allow in refugees to avoid the introduction of “sharia culture.”
Paad said he works in safety and compliance for a local trucking company, after selling his own firm several years ago.
Kugler was a longtime Wells Fargo employee, rising to the level of regional president for Wyoming in 2012. He has served on the Casper College Foundation, the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and Natrona County United Way.
City Council will hold interviews with all applicants on Friday. That meeting will be open to the public, following which the current Council members will meet privately to select a candidate to fill Murphy’s seat.
Murphy cited personal reasons when he stepped down. He had previously complained that the workload was more than he initially expected.