CHEYENNE — Joe Meyer joined the new Legislative Service Office in 1971, back when the Wyoming Legislature met every two years.
For the first time, lawmakers had help preparing bills for introduction to the Legislature.
During the years Meyer was deputy director, he helped draft hundreds of bills, including many that became state law.
It was the first job in a remarkable and long record of public service for the University of Wyoming law school graduate.
Meyer died Saturday at his home after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 71.
Meyer’s death triggers the legal process for temporary appointment of a replacement to serve until the next general election in 2014.
Wyoming’s last elected officer to die in office was Republican Sen. Craig Thomas, in 2007 of leukemia.
At that time, the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee met in public to choose three candidates to complete Thomas’ term. Then-Gov. Dave Freudenthal tapped John Barrasso to succeed Thomas.
The same process will be used to fill the vacancy in the office of state treasurer, Tammy Hooper, the chairwoman of the state Republican Party, said Monday.
But first “we want to be able to pay our respects to our friend and colleague,” Hooper said.
The first step is a formal letter from Gov. Matt Mead to Hooper advising her of the vacancy.
The post office was closed Monday for Columbus Day, so the letter will go out today, said Renny Mackay, the governor’s press secretary.
From the time Hooper receives the letter, the central committee will have 15 days to choose three qualified residents to be temporary successor as treasurer.
The meeting will be open to the public, as it was with Thomas.
The names of the three candidates then go to Mead, who will have five days to name a successor to Meyer.
The candidates will run a mini-campaign, Hooper said, as they did in 2007.
Hooper, who was county chairwoman when Thomas died, said she had visits from about 10 prospects for the appointment in addition to quantities of mail, including priority mail.
“Our job is to give the best and brightest to the governor so that he has the harder choice,” Hooper said.
Whoever gets the temporary appointment will be responsible for managing the state’s $14 billion portfolio. In addition, the successor will serve on the Wyoming Retirement Board and as one of the five elected state officials on the State Loan and Investment Board, State Board of Land Commissioners and State Canvassing Board.
Meyer’s career arc took a turn in 1987 when Democratic Gov. Mike Sullivan took office and tapped the Republican to be his attorney general.
One of Meyer’s major accomplishments was to forge an agreement with ExxonMobil over the valuation of production on its natural gas processing and transportation facilities in Sublette and Lincoln counties.
Gas prices were low when production began in 1986, and the method of valuation at the time resulted in zero taxable value, an outcome that provoked an uproar given the state’s poor revenue picture.
“I think it probably paid large dividends to the state in mineral revenues,” said Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and former director of the Office of State Lands and Investments and Federal Energy Policy office.
After a stint as an assistant to the president of the University of Wyoming, Meyer ran for secretary of state in 1998 and was elected to the first of two terms.
In that position, he was responsible for putting into effect the Help America Vote Act, which involved obtaining electronic voting equipment for the counties.
On his watch, statewide voter registration was made possible so that residents’ voting histories could follow them when they moved.
“It’s quite significant in bringing Wyoming’s voting process into the 21st century,” said Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, which advocates on voting access and other issues
In 2006, Meyer was elected state treasurer. He was re-elected in 2010.
Meyer brought his historical knowledge to important issues that came before the State Loan and Investment Board and State Board of Land Commissioners, Magagna said.
“I felt he was very balanced and solution-oriented,” said.