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Mike Sullivan and a different time in Wyoming

Mike Sullivan and a different time in Wyoming


It was September 1990, and then-Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan’s Irish temper was hot.

It was at the Lander One Shot Antelope Hunt and I was driving then US Sen. Al Simpson back to the hotel headquarters. Sullivan spotted us and came charging out.

Simpson took one look and said: “Oh darn (well, words sort of like that), this is not going to be pretty.”

As he rolled down the window, Sullivan let Simpson have his full fury about some project Sullivan had been working on for years and that he felt Simpson had not helped him enough with back in DC.

My recollection is that Simpson suggested to Sullivan that he calm down. He wanted to tell him what was happening. The Republican Senator slowly explained to the red-faced Democrat Governor that the project was still on course but it had taken a difficult turn and with patience it would come to fruition.

Although I do not remember the project they were talking about, it did get resolved. I was just a bystander watching in amazement as our state’s two most distinguished leaders settled into a long discussion of how to get the best result for a project important to our state.

Today when I think back to that exchange, it is astonishing to imagine any project anywhere in the country getting bipartisan support given the toxic political climate that has overpowered everything political in the USA in 2016.

After that exchange I drove the two men over to the dedication of a monument that had been established for the legendary Stub Farlow of Lander, the man shown riding Steamboat on the Wyoming license plate.

That event was set up by then-Mayor Joyce Jansa and the three of us were surprised when we got there because, well, it was just Joyce. Both men said a few words about Farlow, which I quoted, and then I took a photo of Joyce and the men. Then we drove away with both chuckling that they had never before attended such an event where the audience consisted of one person – a journalist, which happened to be me.

Small town political stories in a small state like Wyoming like this are commonplace. But that was a rare one that I happened to witness first-hand.

The reason for telling this story is to share the amazing long history of good fellowship Simpson and Sullivan have enjoyed, although coming from different sides of the political aisle.

What makes this even more remarkable is that when Sullivan won his first term as governor, he defeated Al’s brother Pete in a notable upset.

After that bitter and difficult campaign, Mike and Al put aside their differences to work for the future of the Cowboy State.

Sullivan will go down in history as the right governor for the right time when he served the state during a time of terrible economic strife. A great many of us believe that the bust of the 1980s and early 1990s was a worse depression for Wyoming than the 1930s.

Sullivan is one of Wyoming’s most famous citizens, having played a key role in the peace process in Ireland where President Bill Clinton had appointed him as ambassador. Sullivan recently retired from the active practice of law in Casper. He is still involved in arbitration cases where his honesty and work ethic make him one of the best, if not the best in the state in this niche of important legal work.

Sullivan’s stature in the Rocky Mountain Region was recently celebrated when he was named “Citizen of the West” at the Denver Stock Show.

Who got the privilege of introducing Gov Suv at that event? None other than the afore-mentioned Al Simpson. I talked Al into sending me that introduction and here is some of what he said:

“In Wyoming, Democrats alone do not elect our Democrat governors. It takes a lot of Republicans to help out. Plenty of them were always there for Mike because to him compromise was not a four-letter word. He believed in working with the other side. A sick idea, I know, but it made Wyoming work. He brought us through the toughest economic times.

“Furthermore, he is a statesman more than a politician. There is a difference. He doesn’t have enemies; he has adversaries. He makes things work and he does that because of his personality and who he is – with kindness, caring, brilliance, wisdom as well his wit and his patriotism.

“To sum up Mike is the word loyalty: to his country, his state, his profession, his family and to his friends.”

To make this circle even more complete, it was also interesting that current Gov. Matt Mead was there in Denver that night to also introduce and honor Sullivan. Matt’s mother, the late Mary Mead, ran against Sullivan during his second campaign for governor. Sullivan won and the rest was history.

I join with the rest of Wyoming in congratulating Mike and Jane Sullivan for this incredible honor. Well deserved. We are very proud of you.

Visit Bill Sniffin at

You can reach Dale Bohren at 307-266-0516 or


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