Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce members, several Laramie County Commission candidates and several guests gathered early Tuesday morning to talk politics and breakfast, but mostly the former.
Seven of the 10 commissioner candidates were in attendance on Tuesday morning, all of them on the Republican ticket.The candidates in attendance were: JC Manalo, K.N. Buck Holmes,Brian Lovett, Will Luna, Taft Love, Slade Raine and Nathan Smith.
Fellow Republicans Sam Eliopoulos and Rob Johnson, as well as Democrat Jeff Dockter were unable to attend.
The primary election is Aug. 18. The general election is Nov. 3.
Two seats are up for grabs in this year’s general election and both incumbents are running again. Brian Lovett has only been in the seat since March, when he replaced Amber Ash on the board. Buck Holmes has been on the board since 2012.
The nine Republicans will be up for election during the primary, with the two candidates with the most votes moving on to face Dockter in the primary, as he is running unopposed on the Democratic ticket.
The commissions currently on the board besides Holmes and Lovett are Gunnar Malm, Linda Heath and Troy Thompson.
Due to the large number of candidates at the debate, only a few questions were asked, since each of the men were allowed up to three minutes for almost all of their responses.
The first question focused on the county’s economy and how the candidates would help Laramie County recover from the impact from COVID-19.
Most of the men agreed that economic diversification was key for the county, but had different approaches toward this topic. Taft Love believed it was important to take away some of the regulations placed on businesses eyeing the county for possible expansion, as well as provide incentives for companies coming into the county.
Will Luna believed it was important for the county commission to have a harmonious relationship with the Cheyenne City Council, as well as the councils in Burns and Pine Bluffs. This would be integral for the commission to find out what’s most important to each town or city.
“I think I have a proven record when it comes to working on economic issues in the county,” Buck Holmes said. “I was here when we brought in Microsoft. We’re continuing to diversify the economy, but we’re trying to work our way through COVID.”
Slade Raine agreed that the pandemic was the main reason for difficult times in the county, and said that the commission should make good use of the 5th and 6th penny tax usages.
Nathan Smith believed that the county should look into bringing in higher-level jobs, as they can offer more to young, upwardly mobile professionals. He also pointed to HollyFrontier’s recent announcement about its shift to renewable energy would impact 200 jobs directly, but 300 jobs indirectly, which was a major hit for the county.
Brian Lovett admitted that while times have been tough for the county, 10 companies are currently discussing expansion to the area, so life isn’t “as bad we predicted.” As someone who has seen the economic impact at the state level, Lovett noted that the county has been somewhat insulated from some of the pandemic’s effects.
J.C. Manalo said he wanted the county to continue practicing fiscal responsibility. He also suggested forming a committee of senior county employees to find out the most efficient practices and how the county can run more smoothly.
The commission candidates also briefly talked about county infrastructure and the military during the 90-minute debate.