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(COMMENTARY) The Mayor’s Minute from Mayor Patrick Collins (2/23/24)

Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins (City of Cheyenne)

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — This has been a very busy week with the Legislature in town and our Wyoming Association of Municipalities winter meeting happening at the same time. The WAM meeting is scheduled so elected municipal officials can come to the Capital City and see their legislators while getting some training and spending time with other mayors and city council members from across the state.

I spent a couple of hours getting the last part of my required fiscal training. The Legislature passed a law that requires every municipal elected official and members of other boards that deal with finances to get a day of training. The information is basic, but very important to successfully do our jobs.

I met with Captain Janes from our police department to discuss his downtown parking report that outlined the best practices from the parking industry. We have hired a private security company to patrol the parking garages every night to prevent vandalism. They have made a difference our cleaning staff see every morning. I wanted to get a better handle on the next steps to improve the parking for the customers who shop downtown. Working with the downtown merchants, I hope we can improve parking for everyone.

One of the biggest risks our city faces is flooding. We learned in 1985 that a big rain can be devastating to life and property. We have made some significant improvements to the drainages, but the funding to maintain our existing channels, pipes, and detention facilities is not adequate. City Council held a work session to review a plan to address maintaining our drainage facilities. It was a good start but more needs to be done before the plan is ready to be finalized and implemented. More to come over the next few months.

I participated in Leadership Cheyenne in 1997. I loved the experience! I got a chance to speak to this year’s class about the challenges Cheyenne faces in the future. I shared our challenges in housing, Colorado River water shortages, and funding. I love that these folks have taken part in this program and the opportunity to learn so much about our community.

Cheyenne Frontier Days is powered by volunteers. They have a Volunteer Crisis Fund that is in place to help their volunteer teammates who are in need. Ella Langley is an up-and-coming country music singer that provided awesome music at the end of the auction. Cheyenne’s volunteers are amazing and I was so impressed by this group looking out for each other. Judy and I appreciate being asked to participate.

I met Gilbert when he was our waiter at The Office restaurant. He was amazing and I wanted to learn his story. He told me he made a mistake as a youngster and ended up spending time in prison. He got out and has been working on his education and making up for lost time. Today he is a businessman and helps others who have made similar mistakes. I find him to be an inspiration. I went to a party where he celebrated his last day on probation. A true success and redemption story.

I met with folks from the YMCA and the topic was affordable housing. I did not expect there would be a connection between the two efforts, but learned the Y is working to create affordable housing and expand their facility. I am excited about their effort as we need more places for people to affordably live and indoor recreation is a big need in our community. I don’t know where this will end up, but I hope they find a way to succeed in both aspects of this endeavor.

My plans changed on Tuesday evening when I learned Senate File 114 was going to be debated by the Corporations Committee. This bill has a great premise: licensed contractors should be able to work in all Wyoming communities without having to take a test in each city. The problem was it did not have a minimum qualification and many of Wyoming’s smaller communities don’t require the national testing of our larger communities. We went to the committee and testified about the concerns and the sponsor of the bill is now working to make the needed changes. From my perspective, making it easier for folks to work and build in our city is important, we just need to make sure we have a way to ensure they are qualified. SF-114 looks like it will make that happen.

The Governor’s Prayer Breakfast was held Wednesday morning at way-too-early 6:30 a.m. It was a great morning. Sgt. Rebecca Bridger sang the national anthem so beautifully (not sure how you sing that early). Major Scotty Smiley, U.S. Army Retired, was the guest speaker. Major Smiley was injured in a suicide bombing while serving our country. He lost his eyesight, but not his zest for life. I can’t imagine doing an Ironman Triathlon, and he did it while blind. I found his message and passion for life inspiring. The breakfast ended with Cheyenne’s own Smith twins singing “How Great Thou Art.” I went to high school with them but forgot how talented they are. Thank you, Governor and Mrs. Gordon, for hosting this beautiful event.

I am a huge Denver Bronco fan. Judy and I have been going to games since 1984. The speaker at the WAM conference was Karl Mecklenberg, who starred for 12 years for my beloved Orange Crush. He did a great job of telling sports stories and then relating them to our jobs working in Wyoming’s cities and towns. He showed a highlight film at the beginning that brought back so many great memories. A big highlight for this Bronco fan.

I received an email from someone I know and respect sharing his concern about the city forestry department removing a number of mature cottonwood trees from our parks. He is right about the tree canopy making the parks a special place. Around 100 years ago we planted a monoculture of trees that are coming to the end of their lives and our forestry department is concerned they pose a public safety threat. It reminds me of Texas Governor Abbott, who was paralyzed when a falling tree hit him while out for a run. I don’t know how to balance the risk of not following our expert advice to remove the trees and the chance someone could be hurt by a failing tree. Our forestry team is committed to replanting many more trees than were removed and to planting a variety of species to help prevent this problem in the future.

Good luck to all our local athletes in their state competitions this weekend!


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