Gillette Man Hand Delivers Petition Protesting COVID-19 Restrictions
When Jacob Dalby arrived at the state capitol last week, he had a decision to make. Would he put on a mask to talk to Governor Gordon?
On one hand, the 22-year-old Gillette native was there to deliver a petition signed by more than 1,100 Campbell County residents, who were objecting to the governor’s mask mandate among other public health restrictions. On the other, he had promised the folks back home that he’d deliver it in person.
Initially, he’d planned to meet the governor on the front steps of the capitol, but heightened security following the storm on the nation’s capital Jan. 6 drove the meeting indoors.
Dalby compromised; he wore the mask on his chin.
“That was a hard one,” Dalby said Thursday, grinning at the memory. “It went against everything I believed in, but at the same time, I didn’t want to let down the people I promised back home.”
The petition is one that he’d created and circulated, stating his objection to the mask mandate, mandatory vaccines and quarantine, restricted capacity in any and all businesses as well as current public health restrictions preventing family members from visiting relatives in ‘elderly care centers’ and hospitals.
Dalby’s petition also protested the mask mandate for county employees, which has since been rescinded by the Campbell County Commissioners. Del Shelstad and Colleen Faber have since apologized for implementing it in the first place and were the only two commissioners to sign Dalby’s petition, which he presented to the commission in early January.
The mandates in general hit a chord with the 22-year-old, who considered the orders government overreach and a direct assault on his liberties and freedom.
Hand delivering the petition to both Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH), was imperative for the young activist, who wanted to be sure that they couldn’t say they didn’t know about it.
Getting the meeting itself took a lot of work, Dalby said, taking about two weeks of leaving daily phone messages and emails to the governor’s office until he finally got a call back.
“In my last message, I threatened to contact the Wyoming Tribune Eagle,” Dalby said, “but, his chief of staff finally called back, saying he hadn’t received any of the prior messages.”
That could very well be true, Dalby noted, which is why he felt it was important to meet with the governor face to face.
On Jan. 11, Dalby and his mom Kimberly Glass and grandmother Terri Glass met the governor and his team, including Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill, in a conference room in the capitol that Gordon told them had been his office in his former post as state treasurer. Dalby handed over the petition and Gordon questioned him about what he thought the governor should do to help mitigate the pandemic apart from his current measures.
In turn, Dalby questioned the efficacy of masks in general, questioning why no CARES funding went to helping provide vitamins and supplements and helping people build up their immunities from the inside out, as opposed to other preventive measures like masks and social distancing.
During the 30-minute meeting, he also asked the governor about his stance on upcoming legislation – particularly the two proposed fuel tax bills – House Bill 26 and 37 – up in this year’s general legislative session – to which Hill intervened and said the office had no comment.
It was a good discussion overall, Dalby said, even though he didn’t get answers.
And though the petition will likely have no impact on the restrictions that currently remain in place until Jan. 25, Dalby nonetheless appreciated the governor taking the time to meet with him and his family.
“He was really nice,” Dalby said, “and I felt like he was listening.”
Gordon’s office likewise said the meeting was productive, if just to give Dalby the opportunity to deliver the petition and ask questions.
“The governor always appreciates the opportunity to meet with constituents and hear their concerns,” Michael Pearlman, communications director for Mark Gordon’s office, said in an email, noting that they had no comment on the petition.
Dalby is okay with that. He never anticipated that the petition would change anything, he said, but rather he wanted to literally put it on the governor’s desk that many in Campbell County were not happy with his response to the pandemic.
“I think he (Gordon) is insulated and he’s not talking to the people,” Dalby said. “I wanted to make sure he got to see that many people in the state don’t agree with what he’s doing.”
Moving forward, Dalby’s not sure he’ll do a petition again, though he said he’s happy he initiated it and followed through, and credits his small team of circulators for doing the lion’s share of the work, though he, too, spent a lot of time out in the community garnering signatures.
Not everyone agreed with the extent of the petition, which Dalby said he understands. For him, it was a good civics lesson in debating people while respecting their dissent.
“Everybody was really cordial,” he said. “Even if they didn’t agree with it.”
That kind of civility is essential to productive discourse, Dalby noted.
“You lose credibility when you start cursing or name calling,” he said.
More so for the 22-year-old conservative and rancher, it was the notion of standing up for what he believes, whether or not people agree. For him, it’s a question of defending one’s personal beliefs and taking a stance to do so.
He quoted Sam Adams who said, “It does not take a majority to prevail…but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
He further reiterated what his grandma told the governor about the men in her family who have fought for the country’s freedoms in every war dating back to the Revolutionary War.
“She has always told me that she will die fighting for her freedom before she will live on her knees under someone’s control,” he said. “I have gained a lot of my political drive from her.”
What’s more, it’s spurred him to continue on in his efforts, which may include a run for political office down the road.
Who knows, he said, but he’s not ruling anything out.