Casper city councilman Chris Walsh resigned from the council last week to take a new position in Douglas. He made the announcement in a Friday email that he sent to the rest of the council members.
Walsh joined the council in 2016 after serving more than two decades on the Casper Police Department and for several years as its chief.
In June, Walsh took over as the director of the state’s Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission, under the Attorney General. He said it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. He applied for the position a few months ago, he said, but didn’t know he was selected for the role until June 10.
That job is based in Douglas, and Walsh has been commuting back and forth from Casper. Last week, he said, he missed several meetings because of the long commute. Council members are designated as liaisons to various community boards, and those meetings are often held during work hours. That’s when he realized it was not a sustainable situation.
“I could just tell that was going to be the norm,” he said.
Walsh called the situation somewhat bittersweet, but that the new opportunity was too good to pass up. He also reflected on his proudest achievements as a city official.
“I think we can all be proud of bringing the budget back around,” he said.
Walsh joined the council during a time of significant cut-backs and wage-freezes. Over the last several years, the council has been able to restore the city’s reserve fund and put the city budget upright.
Councilman Steve Freel, who served under Walsh when Walsh was chief of the Casper Police Department, said Walsh will be missed.
“It was a great time working with him,” he said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he understands issues inside and out.”
Now, with Walsh’s seat on the council officially vacant, the council must decide how to fill it.
Casper Mayor Charlie Powell said the council will discuss its options for doing so during its Tuesday work session. In the past, the council has asked for interested parties to submit applications, including resumes, to the council. Applications would then be asked to appear in the council chambers and interview with the current council members.
Those interviews would be open to the public. Under that scenario, all applicants would be given the same set of questions, Powell said. After the interviews, council would go into executive session before selecting an applicant.
Any resident of Ward 3, or east Casper, would be able to apply.
The last time the council filled a vacancy ahead of an election was in 2017 when then-councilman Todd Murphy resigned from his position representing Ward 2. Six people applied for that position and now-former councilman Dennis Laird was chosen to fill the vacancy.
Powell said this is only one option the council has at its disposal to fill the vacancy, and members may suggest alternative ideas at Tuesday’s work session. The vacancy would not be filled by an election, however, because the council is charged with appointing any vacancies.
Powell said the timeline is also up to the council. He said it could take anywhere from three to four weeks to schedule the interviews and then select a candidate.