A Casper city councilman resigned this week, the city’s mayor said Friday evening.
Chris Walsh submitted his resignation on Thursday, Mayor Charlie Powell said by phone. The notice of resignation was made effective immediately, and Powell said Walsh made the decision because he did not think he’d be able to serve the city effectively while also working a new job in Douglas.
“He’s the sort of person who wants to do the job right,” Powell said. “We will miss him.”
Walsh did not immediately respond to a Friday evening voicemail left on his cellphone.
Walsh lived in Casper for most of his life and graduated from Kelly Walsh High School. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Wyoming National Guard, and he was deployed to Iraq during his time with the National Guard.
Walsh worked as an officer for the Casper Police Department more than two decades. He became police chief in 2011 and stepped down suddenly in 2014. He later worked as an investigator for the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission.
In 2016, a former City Council member brought a lawsuit against Walsh and then-City Manager John Patterson. Craig Hedquist alleged Walsh used police data to aide Patterson in sabotaging Hedquist’s career.
During those proceedings, Walsh admitted to using police databases to search for information on Hedquist. In a 2016 deposition, Walsh said he could not remember why he performed the search but that it might have been related to a speeding ticket.
In 2018, a judge threw out that lawsuit, writing that Hedquist “has not shown ... Chief Walsh should have known that his specific actions were prohibited, if his actions actually even were prohibited.”
The same year Hedquist brought the lawsuit, Walsh ran for City Council, where he has served since January 2017. He ran on a platform of diversifying Casper’s local economy to make it less reliant on energy booms and busts. He also advocated using public funds for bare essentials like infrastructure before spending it on social services. He has continued to advocate that cause in discussions with other city officials.
When the police department fell into turmoil several years after Walsh’s departure, he was among the first to call out the department’s leadership. In 2017, a number of Casper police officers publicized an internal survey criticizing the department heads, which at the time hinged on then-police chief Jim Wetzel, who was named to the position after Walsh stepped down. Both Walsh, who at that point was on the City Council, and then-mayor Kenyne Humphrey asked for a formal investigation into the department’s leadership. Shortly after, Wetzel resigned.
In February, after months of debate, the council passed the much-discussed animal code Walsh proposed. The ordinance made penalties harsher for pet owners whose animals misbehaved and stated that all pets must be on a leash or enclosed, except in dog parks or on private property under direct supervision. He made the proposal in an attempt to cut down on the number of animal bites in Casper — about 1.3 per day, according to Metro Animal Services data.
Walsh’s term on the City Council would have expired in January 2021.
Powell said Walsh’s law enforcement experience has been a great asset to the council. Council member Bob Hopkins added that Walsh has been a “really, really good councilman.”