On Tuesday, the Natrona County Commission will decide who should become its newest member.
Last month, Brook Kaufman announced she was leaving the commission — and Casper — for a job in Rapid City. That left an opening on the five-member commission, which oversees decision making in the unincorporated parts of Natrona County.
The job attracted 15 candidates. The commissioner’s post is partisan, and Kaufman is a Republican. That means the Natrona County Republican Party was tasked with sorting through the applicants and nominating three for the rest of the commission to choose from.
The 15 people represented a broad swath of political backgrounds, from moderate Republicans to staunch conservatives. Some had years of civic experience, serving in local office or with community groups. Many had impressive resumes. All deserve credit for participating in the process of local governance.
Earlier this year, Wyoming’s schools chief Jillian Balow departed the state with a year left on her term. The Wyoming Republican Party gathered to choose three nominees to succeed her. In that situation, the party focused little on the actual challenges facing the state’s school system, deciding instead to overlook talented, qualified candidates with years of experience in Wyoming education in favor of ideologically pure nominees.
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On Tuesday, the Natrona County GOP focused on issues that are relevant to most here, regardless of political leanings. That included questions on energy resources, public lands and zoning. Candidates were also asked their views on accepting federal grant money and whether they would support new buildings for the county library and public health building.
Local Republican leaders deserve praise for keeping the meeting focused on relevant topics rather than partisan litmus tests. They should also be credited for choosing candidates not on their party bona fides, but on their qualifications and talent.
In the end, 132 voting members chose Peter Nicolaysen, Rob Hill and Dale Bohren. Nicolaysen, a rancher and attorney, was the top vote getter. Hill teaches at Pathways Innovation Center and Casper College. Bohren is a former publisher of the Casper Star-Tribune and Casper Journal.
The four commissioners will now make the final decision. Rather than endorse any of the three nominees, this board instead will offer a simple suggestion to the commission: follow the example set by the county Republican Party last week. That group showed a focus on finding the best leader, not the best partisan. They valued experience over bombast. And they showed that pragmatism still has a place in Wyoming politics.
Come to think of it, we hope the commission isn’t the only group that follows that example. It’s a valuable lesson for anyone involved in Wyoming politics.