For the first time in more than a decade, there’s no title needed in front of Kenyne Humphrey’s name.
After serving 12 years on the Casper City Council, including four stints as mayor, the Casper native stepped down Tuesday. Humphrey, who did not seek re-election last year, said Friday that it still seems surreal.
“I’m pretty sure next Tuesday my brain and car will go to City Hall before I even realize I’m there,” she said.
Humphrey has cited stress as the reason for her departure — and it doesn’t require much research to understand why. The last decade has not been uneventful for Casper.
In the last few years alone, downtown has undergone significant redevelopment, the Casper Police Department came under scrutiny for how it handled sexual assault cases and a former councilman filed a lawsuit against the city after his tumultuous departure.
Although she said it hasn’t been easy, Humphrey believes the city has moved in a positive direction. But she quickly explained that she doesn’t deserve to “take credit” for any beneficial changes.
“People bring concerns, problems and ideas to you and you help them facilitate that,” she said. “But in the end it wasn’t me with the brilliant ideas. I just helped bridge a connection to help something happen.”
When the Downtown Development Authority first proposed the idea of creating the David Street Station — a public plaza that would offer an outdoor stage and lawn spaces — Humphrey said there were many in the community who believed it would never come to fruition.
Although they took some heat for the decision, the City Council ultimately voted to contribute $3 million to the project in 2015.
Humphrey, who was among the station’s supporters, said she has no regrets about that decision. She recalled travelling to Rapid City, South Dakota, to visit a similar complex and said she was impressed by the number of families enjoying the facility.
“I wanted that for Casper,” she said.
The David Street Station opened nearly two years ago and recently expanded to include a seasonal splash pad and ice skating rink. Gov. Matt Mead spoke at the grand opening and said the facility was proof that when Casper “needs something done, it gets it done.”
City leaders hoped the station would bring more businesses and foot traffic to the city’s core, and a handful of new businesses have popped up downtown since the decision, including Urban Bottle, Gaslight Social, Frontier Brewing Company, Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana and Crescent Moon Coffee Stop.
The city has also recently focused on revitalizing downtown’s streets. Renovations along West Yellowstone Highway in the Old Yellowstone District are already complete, and Midwest Avenue is slated to receive a $2.5 million makeover later this year.
Some residents have questioned if the city should spend money on revitalization efforts during an economic downturn. Others have expressed concerns that the attention given to the city’s core has come at the expense of other sections.
But Humphrey said she believes new development is needed keep a city vibrant.
“I think that growth and change and evolving is what will lead us to a path that will keep our younger people here,” she said.
Sexual assault survivors started appearing at City Council meetings more than two years ago with concerns about how their cases were handled. Among their criticisms: The prosecution process was too slow, obtaining updates was difficult and police officers were overall insensitive about sexual crimes.
With the Council’s encouragement, the police department has striven to improve its services for victims.
A soft interview room was created to help victims feel more at ease, and efforts were made to streamline the communication process between police, victims, hospitals and the district attorney’s office. Several officers have also attended “Start by Believing” programs, which were established by End Violence Against Women International to help improve criminal justice responses to sexual assault.
Humphrey said Friday that former Councilwoman Amanda Huckabay, who resigned last year, was the one who pushed for these changes.
Huckabay, who was elected in part for her advocacy for sexual assault survivors, was the most outspoken advocate for victims of sexual crimes. But she told the Star-Tribune last year that Humphrey also played an important role.
“We had raw and candid conversations about sexual assault, and she started attending (support) meetings with survivors and heard their concerns,” Huckabay said. “She empowered them by acknowledging them. She wanted to them to know they aren’t alone. I’ve had so many of them tell me how meaningful that was to them.”
Humphrey didn’t publicize her efforts to reach out to sexual assault survivors because she’s humble, according to Huckabay.
Though Huckabay said there’s far more work to be done when it comes to fighting back against sexual assault, she believed the Council and police department had made notable improvements.
“The fight isn’t over, but progress is progress,” she said.
As for regrets, Humphrey said she wishes she had provided stronger leadership during the tumultuous period prior to former Councilman Craig Hedquist’ s departure.
“I look back at that and think, ‘How could I have done a better job?’” she said.
Hedquist, who resigned from his seat on the Council in 2015, was the subject of two city-launched investigations.
One claimed he committed workplace violence when he used “fighting words” during an argument with then-city engineer Andrew Beamer. The other declared there was “clear and convincing” evidence he violated city and state conflict-of-interest laws in his dual roles as councilman and owner of Hedquist Construction, a frequent contractor for the city.
Hedquist denied those allegations and filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that the City Council, Beamer and then-City Manager John Patterson plotted together to derail his political career. A federal judge dismissed Hedquist’s lawsuit, citing a lack of supporting evidence, but the former councilman is appealing that decision.
Former Councilman Keith Goodenough, who served with Humphrey for several years, told the Star-Tribune last year that he believed Patterson was an unethical city manager and that Humphrey was too new to politics to realize it.
“He had a great memory so he could remember every lie he told…” he said. “I don’t think the Council, including Kenyne, had ever dealt with someone with his abilities.”
Patterson, who was a divisive figure, has since left Casper and could not be reached for comment.
Humphrey said she wishes a better result would have been achieved.
“The outcome was not great for anybody,” she said.
Even in between some of the larger chapters that mark her time with the City Council, there’s rarely been a dull moment for Humphrey.
She intentionally got tipsy in 2013 at a public event — hosted by the police department and the Wyoming Medical Center’s Safe Communities — to demonstrate the dangers of driving while impaired.
In 2017, she spotted a motorcycle crash on Highway 220 and used her clothing to stop the flow of blood from the victim’s head. Later that year, she announced she had suffered a concussion after falling in her home and experienced short-term memory loss.
And last week, she went out with a bang, donning a towering cotton-candy wig during her last Council meeting to poke fun at her ever-changing hairstyles.
“Rather than give everybody a boring speech, for those of you who know me, I have to shake things up a little bit,” Humphrey said at the meeting.
Although she’s ready for a break, Humphrey said Friday she’s already starting to plan for what’s next.
“I don’t know how far away it might take me,” she said. “But I think it might be time for a new adventure.”