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(COLUMN) The Mayor’s Minute from Mayor Patrick Collins (1/20/23)

Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins (City of Cheyenne)

NOTE: The following is a column written weekly by Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Back during COVID-19 days, a group of community leaders got together regularly to make sure everything to support our community was getting done. They call themselves the Economic Development Primaries, or EDP. Today, they meet quarterly, and I really enjoy being part of the meeting. Depending on the meeting, we might have four agencies or 10 others in attendance. This week, we heard from Betsey Hale from LEADS. She shared the progress they have made this past year and informed us that they had 26 prospects who are actively working. Manufacturing and data centers are the biggest categories. Tim Thornell shared that the hospital was rated one of the top 100 in the country for coronary care; the new maternity ward is open, and the ICU is now being remodeled. Dr. Rinne talked about our Reed Avenue and 15th Street projects, building code adoptions and greenway expansion. I shared the bills we are watching in the legislature: water concerns for the future, our 17th Street lighting project and the city starting its first county pocket annexations. Heather from the Wyoming Business Council updated us on the Harvard Growth Lab and the economic development educational program they are building to model after Leadership Wyoming. Dale from the Chamber ended the meeting with a report on housing, passenger rail, the new missile updates and their legislative priorities. I appreciate all the work EDP does in our community, making it a better place to live and work.

Again, this week I met with the fire union. I’m starting to understand their position on many issues, and I believe we are very close to compromising on this year’s contract. We will meet again each Friday until the end of February to make sure we find common ground.

The highlight for Judy and me this week was attending the events surrounding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Sunday, we attended the kickoff celebration at Second Baptist Church. I spoke about my admiration for Dr. King and how his legacy is still evident in our lives today. I was joined in that admiration by our new County Sheriff, Brian Kozak. The music selections were amazing! One particular highlight from the program was hearing from Dr. Acen L. Phillips from Denver, Colorado. Dr. Phillips worked and walked hand in hand with Dr. King for 10 years, until the day of King’s passing. He painted such a vivid picture of Dr. King and what it was like during those times. What an honor it was to be a part of the event and hear a firsthand account of Dr. Phillips’s experience with the honorable Dr. King.

Throughout his life, Dr. King led marches across the country, and on Monday we commemorated his efforts. Marching from the Depot to the Capitol on a brisk winter day was beautiful. We were led by the cadets from our local Jr. ROTC programs and hundreds of folks followed behind. There was a lot of speechifying, but we all learned how it should be done by the Command Chief from F.E. Warren Air Force Base. Chief Master Sgt. Hlongwane is new to Cheyenne, but she sure can tell a story. For 15 minutes she mesmerized all of us and gave us an understanding of the importance and effects the life of MLK had on our entire nation.

I am very proud of our city and thankful for the folks who made the Dr. King weekend so meaningful.

Carter Napier, the City Manager from Casper, called on Monday morning so we could compare notes on this year’s legislative session. I really appreciate the partnerships we have developed around the state with mayors and managers in other cities and towns. It is an amazing resource to be able to ask questions and compare approaches to common problems.

Gene McDonald worked at the city when I was on the City Council. I came to appreciate the creative way he approaches engineering problems. He not only wants to address the problem, but he is always looking for a way to attach the solution to further enhance the community (perhaps a drainage way, new park enhancements, etc.). We talked about the frustrations we have with getting the Reed Avenue project moving in along. Dealing with freight railroad is extremely challenging. I left smiling due to his unique way of understanding the problems and creative outlook on a probable solution.

Tuesday was an epic day in Cheyenne’s economic development history. We held the groundbreaking for the new headquarters of Eagle Claw. They are a 98-year-old, family-owned manufacturer of outdoor recreation equipment. Wyoming is a state known for outdoor recreation and family values, so this seems like a match made in heaven. I have used their fishing hooks for most of my life. The governor spoke about trout fishing, and I shared my passion for bass. A promise of 200 manufacturing jobs from a company like Eagle Claw will help LEADS’s success in the future. Thank you to the McGill family for bringing your company to Cheyenne. It will be great to have my number-one fishing brand made in Wyoming by Cheyenne workers.

I have spent many hours at the capitol this week working on a few bills important to the city. I must give credit to our legislators. They start at 7 a.m. in the morning and finish late at night, over many days. You know my feeling about early mornings. However, we worked with our partners at the Liquor Association, Wyoming Association of Municipalities, Chamber of Commerce, Wyoming Hospitality and Travel Coalition, Wyoming Chief and Sheriff’s Association, State Liquor Division and other organizations all summer to get a bill written to increase the number of bar and grill liquor licenses and to create a new entertainment license. The Corporations Committee in the Senate was amazing in helping to make the bills better and passed them along to the senate body. I am so grateful for the amount of time and spirit of compromise that allowed this to happen. It is only the first step in the journey, but a positive step for sure.

We held our fifth goal-setting work session in the past 24 months with the city council this week. I love the way the city council members worked through the proposed goals. After a short period, our moderator just stood back and let the council’s discussions take over. In the end, we came up with five goals to work on this year. I will spend time over the next few weeks fleshing out the details. Going forward, our 2023 goals include: beautifying the western entrance to our city along Lincolnway, developing a water-wise plan for the city due to the Colorado River Drainage crisis, building a trail system on the Belvoir Ranch, investigating solar power and how the city can benefit from solar, and making headway on downtown signature projects like 15th Street, Reed Avenue and the Pump House stabilization.

As the perfect ending to a long week, I’m looking forward to spending the weekend with my grandson, endless hours of football and sleeping in.

If you have a question or comment for me, please send an email to media@cheyennecity.org. I’ll continue to answer your questions or concerns in the following Mayor’s Minute column.