In a race for Wyoming governor that so far features few big names, Bill Dahlin may be the least known of all. The Sheridan businessman has never run for or held public office in the past — a trait he sees as an asset.
Dahlin said in an interview that he had previously considered running for lower office, like county commissioner, but decided that working his way through the political ranks would not help him bring a fresh perspective to the governor’s mansion.
“People are not real happy about politics as usual and where you learn politics as usual is along the way,” Dahlin said.
Instead, Dahlin said he has focused on his private sector work, rising from a laborer for Burlington Northern railroad to upper management in the company during the 1980s and eventually starting his own business. Dahlin said he converted an abandoned mine in North Dakota to a landfill and train loading site for energy companies, as well as operating his own fleet or railcards that ship limestone.
Dahlin, a Wyoming native, said he returned to Sheridan nearly 20 years ago. He runs his company, Gascoyne Material Handling and Recycling, from the town.
Dahlin was the first candidate to officially enter a GOP primary field that now features four declared candidates: Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman and perennial Republican candidates Rex Rammell and Taylor Haynes, who officially announced his intention to run in Riverton two weeks ago.
While Dahlin said he had nothing against the other contenders, he touted his business experience as a unique asset. His platform focuses on diversifying Wyoming’s economy, though Dahlin had relatively few specific plans for doing so. Instead, he cited a failure by the state’s leaders to promote the state successfully enough.
“The governor’s role is to be the biggest cheerleader of the state and try to get everybody behind him or her, as it may be, in order to champion the state in the biggest way possible,” Dahlin said.
He wants to evaluate the effectiveness of existing economic diversification organizations like Gov. Matt Mead’s Endow initiative, the Wyoming Business Council and groups operating on a more local level.
“I’m going to focus on the economy as the No. 1 issue in the state where it appears my opponents aren’t doing the same,” Dahlin said.
Both Rammell and Haynes have made seizing control of federal land in Wyoming top priorities, while Hageman has emphasized the need to rein in what she sees as federal overreach through burdensome regulation that impinges upon prosperity in the state.
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Dahlin said that he would like to see more raw product processing in Wyoming, citing the mineral trona, beef and industrial hemp as areas for economic growth. He also acknowledged that the state faced some roadblocks to economic growth, including an insufficient workforce for some industries. But he believes that problem could be overcome.
“You can’t go out there and build a workforce for something that’s not there,” he said.
This year’s race to replace Mead, who has termed out, remains relatively quiet. The field opened up after former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis announced she would not run, placing Secretary of State Ed Murray and State Treasurer Mark Gordon as the apparent frontrunners.
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Murray and Gordon both said they were considering running, but Murray announced last month that he would not run after facing two allegations of sexual misconduct. Murray denied the first and said he he had no recollection of the second.
Gordon has yet to announce his plans, nor has House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, who has also been floated as a prospective candidate.
(Mary Throne, a former state legislator from Cheyenne, is the only Democrat in the race.)
Dahlin has been traveling the state since he announced his candidacy in July, including traveling to all 99 incorporated municipalities in Wyoming. He recognizes the challenge of lacking name recognition in such a large state but hopes that might work to his favor.
“I’d like people to take a different look at really what a political novice is and I really would appreciate people giving me their consideration,” Dahlin said.