Skip to main content

Town hall truant

News Letter Journal - Staff Photo - Create Article
The crowd at the Legislative Town Hall on June 26, photo by Walter Sprague
Mary Stroka, NLJ Reporter

Senator Driskill doesn’t show up to local legislative town hall

All but one of the legislators who represent Weston County in the Wyoming Senate and House of Representatives were present to provide updates on legislative matters and answer questions from attendees at a town hall held in Newcastle on June 26 at the Weston County Event Center at the fairgrounds.

Attending the event were District 3 Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, District 2 Rep. Allen Slagle and District 1 Rep. Chip Neiman. District 1 Sen. Ogden Driskill did not participate in the event, which was hosted by Weston County Farm Bureau Federation. His lack of attendance continued a trend of absences from public events involving legislators that have been held in Newcastle since the 2022 election.

Driskill said he was prevented from attending last week’s town hall because of other commitments, but admitted that he had no interest in taking part in prior town halls hosted by the county’s Republican party.

“I will have nothing to do with the Weston County Republican Party and the far right that non-stop attack me,” he told the News Letter Journal, claiming the party chose not to support him after he won the Republican primary in 2022.

“I will not attend their meetings or work with them until they recognize me as their representative,” he said.

Weston County Republican Party Chair Kari Drost said via email on June 28 that Driskill told her shortly before the last election that unless the party supported him in the election by making a donation and providing a public statement from her, Weston County wouldn’t see him again.

“It would appear that Senator Driskill intends to keep that promise as I have not seen him at an event in Weston County since the last election,” she said, indicating that she also hasn’t received any correspondence from the senator since that time.

Driskill also expressed disdain for the Weston County Commission’s support of a resolution that withdrew recognition of representatives or senators who do not reside in Weston County but were elected to represent districts that include the county.

“Doesn’t make much sense to cave to people who are openly hostile and have no respect for me or our constitution and statutes,” Driskill said.

Weston County Commission Chair Don Taylor confirmed via text on July 1 that Driskill hasn’t attended County Commission meetings for about the past year and a half, and he expressed displeasure over Driskill’s reaction to the 2022 election dispute.

“He stated when he was campaigning two years ago that if Weston County did not donate to his campaign, he would not be representing Weston County, and he’s not been seen since,” Taylor said. “I don’t want or need his kind of representation and think he’s a used car salesman, nothing more.”

Taylor said that when he needs help, he calls Neiman, who he believes has always indicated a willingness to serve the county. Driskill
confirmed this by telling the News Letter Journal that his public appearances in Newcastle have also been limited because the city of Newcastle and Weston County haven’t asked him to attend any specific events or meetings for a while. He said that he attends Newcastle functions when he can.

Driskill also suggested that while he does not represent Newcastle, he still does a lot “for county and city.”

For example, he reported that he asked the State Loan and Investment Board to provide the Osage Water District with federal mineral royalty capital construction account grant funding to improve its lagoon at the SLIB’s June 20 special meeting, which Osage Water District representatives didn’t attend.

According to Driskill, he has also had many meetings with the rail park in Upton, “dealt nearly weekly” with Rare Element Resources, and had multiple visits with the Weston County School District No. 7 and its board.

Drost, however, said the party believes it is important for people to be able to meet their elected officials and candidates in person so they can hold them accountable.

“We tell people all the time that if they listen closely, most candidates will tell you exactly who they are and how they will govern,” she said.

Last week’s town hall provided such an opportunity, but Driskill told the News Letter Journal in a text on June 27 that he did not attend because he had a conflicting, private meeting that involved “possibly attracting a company with 25-50 employees to Wyoming.”

He said that even though he wishes the company would come to northeastern Wyoming, it will instead be located in southwestern Wyoming. He will meet with them again on July 11.

“I am doing lots statewide as Senate president,” he said, noting that he has been at meetings and speaking three to four days a week since the legislative session ended.

Legislative updates

• District 2 Rep. Allen Slagle said that four out of 20 property tax bills passed through the legislature this year. They included House Bill 3, a property tax exemption for long-term homeowners’ primary residences, for homeowners over age 65; HB 4, changes to the property tax refund program; and HB 45, a property exemption for single-family residential structures that meet certain requirements.

• Gov. Mark Gordon vetoed the fourth property tax bill, SF 54, which would have exempted 25% of the first $2 million of the fair market value of a single-family residence for the 2024 and 2025 tax years.

• The parental rights in education bill SF 9 became law without Gordon’s signature. The law bans K-12 school districts from teaching “radical gender ideology” or conducting health screenings without parental consent and mandates that school staff notify parents if their child’s mental health status changes.

• In response to an audience member who asked whether the state can take legal action on behalf of the child of an abortion-minded mother by taking the mother’s rights away, District 1 Rep. Chip Neiman said that’s “a very slippery slope” for the state to be able to arrest a woman and make her carry the baby to term. At the same time, he expressed the desire to defend the baby’s right to live.

• In the next legislative session, District 3 Sen. Cheri Steinmetz said she plans to continue working on legislation regarding energy policy, family, children, eminent domain, carbon capture and “foreign adversaries” owning property in the state.

• Neiman said the Legislature should support its industries. Legislators should also try to again introduce legislation to make the attorney general position an elected office instead of a governor-appointed one.

(Editor’s note: Videos of last week’s town hall can be found on the News Letter Journal’s Youtube channel. We encourage readers to view those videos for greater detail of the meeting.)

--- Online Subscribers: Please click here to log in to read this story and access all content.

Not an Online Subscriber? Click here to subscribe.

Sign up for News Alerts

Subscribe to news updates