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Brian Boner

Brian Boner

DOUGLAS – Local rancher Brian Boner, 30, was appointed Thursday afternoon to represent Senate District 2 in the Wyoming State Legislature.

Boner, a Republican, received 85.3 percent of the vote during a special meeting between Platte and Converse County commissions.

Boner replaces former Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, who resigned March 6 to move out of state. Anderson is a moderate Republican who has been passionate about education.

Boner will serve the remainder of Anderson’s term, which ends next year. He will have to be sworn into office before it becomes official.

“My priority right now is to learn the issues affecting my district,” he said minutes after he was appointed. “So I’m going to make a concerted effort to get out to not just the people that live in the district but to the boards, county commissions to really get a sense of how state government interacts local government and the constituency as a whole.”

Boner, who lives in Douglas, was a finalist in a process that began with seven interested people. GOP precinct leaders last week whittled that list to Boner, Timothy Millikin of Glendo and Kerry Powers of Wheatland. The three men interviewed with commissions for final selection Thursday.

Boner is a Converse County native who served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force from 2007 to 2013, including as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile crew commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne.

He’s currently finishing a career with the Air Force Reserve. He had served as the Converse County GOP’s vice chairman and is engaged to be married this spring, he said.

“I’ve always been interested in the Legislature,” he said.

Boner made a successful argument to commissioners that his life experiences align with current challenges facing lawmakers.

With low energy prices, Wyoming’s revenue picture could be dampened. Boner said he knows how to trim budgets from his experience with the Air Force during the 2013 automatic federal spending cuts. He changed the way airmen on bases in different states communicated to reduce face-to-face meetings and travel expenses, he said.

Boner helped review contracts with energy companies that wanted to operate on the family ranch. He supports energy development, but he wants the ranch to be viable for future generations, he said.

“That’s the same basic balance we have to strike with Wyoming as a whole,” he said.

The senate district faces a future of economic extremes.

While Converse County is experiencing the benefits and challenges of an oil boom, Platte County has a smaller population, an agriculture-based economy and low sales and property tax receipts.

Commissioners in both counties wanted to know what Boner would do to encourage revenue stabilization.

“Economic diversification would be a big way of doing that,” he said. “And getting off this boom-and-bust cycle to the greatest extent possible.”

Boner also said he would do his best for projects that could improve the district.

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“Short-term, I understand it’s difficult to guarantee funding for projects I would say are necessary for the district, such as Highway 59,” he said.

Wyoming hospitals are saddled with about $200 million in costs that patients are unable to pay. They could benefit if the state accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid, he said.

“I’m not sure that’s politically feasible,” he said. “So I would be looking for alternative ways for Wyoming to help ease the burden.”

One idea is for hospitals to each specialize in different procedures, he said.

Boner is interested in efforts among some lawmakers for Wyoming to assume ownership or management of federal lands. At this point, it is unknown whether Washington would allow any such agreement.

“I understand with that control comes increased responsibility, comes increased costs,” he said. “That’s something we have to look at carefully.”

Converse County Commissioner Tony Lehner told Boner that even though he lives in Converse County, he needs to know the needs of Platte County, too.

 “That’s something that Platte County ought to expect,” he said. “That’s an expectation for whoever is in this seat, to make sure you’re covering both areas.”

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Reach political reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at laura.hancock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.

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