NEWCASTLE – Embattled Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill kicked off her race for governor here Wednesday evening, hours after testifying before a legislative committee investigating whether she should be impeached from the job she currently holds.
"If you're thinking, 'Why should I vote for Cindy Hill,' I've got an answer for you: I'm strong as hell," she told a crowd of 13, backed by a red "Hill for governor" sign at the Weston County Senior Citizens Center.
She characterized herself as pro-Constitution, anti-government secrecy and against the Common Core set of education standards.
"We're not just federalizing education," she said. "We're federalizing health care. We're federalizing our energy policy."
Hill is running as a Republican.
This week, Hill had been in hearings during which Wyoming Department of Education employees testified about her performance as chief of the department from January 2011 to early last year. Most employees who testified alleged misconduct. Hill testified Wednesday before the committee for three hours with several combative exchanges. But said she hadn't done anything illegal. The committee is investigating whether Hill committed any impeachable offenses such as improperly spending federal money.
The Legislature's eventual decision could prove a decisive one for Hill's nascent campaign. The Wyoming Constitution prohibits officials who have been impeached from seeking public office again in the state. Hill has always maintained innocence, saying a good ol’ boys club at the Wyoming Legislature has unfairly gone after her.
Hill has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wyoming and a master’s degree in education studies from the University of Michigan, according to campaign information from when she ran for superintendent in 2010.
She has worked at the Cathedral Home for Children in Laramie, which helps troubled and traumatized youth, and at a treatment center in Michigan. She was an assistant principal at Carey Junior High School in Cheyenne and has worked as a teacher.
On Jan. 31, Hill announced she was running for governor, just two days after Gov. Matt Mead signed into law a bill that transferred most of the superintendent’s duties to the newly created Wyoming Department of Education director position.
“I know in my heart there’s something I have to do here,” she said at the time in the Hathaway Building, while movers were taking her furniture, computer and office supplies from the Department of Education to a new office in the Historic Barrett Building near the Wyoming Capitol.
Hill attended the ceremony in which Mead signed the bill that stripped her powers before the press and members of the Legislature. Afterward, she and her attorney served Mead with a lawsuit. She is challenging the constitutionality of the law. In August, the case was argued before the Wyoming Supreme Court, which has yet to make a decision.
In her personal life, Hill lives in Cheyenne. She is married to Drake Hill, a Cheyenne attorney and former chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, and has an adult son.
The Wyoming Legislature and Hill have butted heads for years over her desire to make Department of Education employees fireable without cause, high turnover at the department and her implementation of the Legislature’s accountability system. In 2012, a bill in the Legislature was unsuccessful to turn the elected superintendent position into an appointed one.