Gillette Community College District approved in landslide vote

A Mosaic style Gillette College Sculpture by Tom Ford
A Mosaic style Gillette College Sculpture by Tom Ford

New trustees, Sheridan respond to certified election results

Campbell County voters spoke loud and clear Tuesday, approving the formation of the Gillette Community College District and the additional taxation of up to four mills by an unprecedented margin.

Of the total 5,886 certified votes counted in a special election on Aug. 17, not including undervotes and overvotes, more than 4,100 ballots were cast in favor of adding an additional community college district and establishing Gillette College as an independent institution separate from Sheridan College.

Only 1,725 certified votes were cast against the district formation. One overvote and 39 overvotes were also counted, according to the certified election results.

Robert Palmer, one of the seven newly elected trustees who will oversee the new district, said in a comment sent to County 17 that he is extremely proud and appreciative of Campbell County voters who chose to separate fact from fiction and embrace a positive vision for the future of the community.

Alison Ochs-Gee, another newly elected trustee, expressed a similar sentiment, adding that she feels honored to be entrusted with moving forward to create Gillette’s very own college to serve Campbell County’s citizens.

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“This is such an important step forward for Campbell County and OUR college,” she wrote in an email to County 17.

Trustee Josh McGrath, formerly a member of the Gillette College Advisory Board, said that he wants to continue to ensure that Gillette College is a great institution and will work hard towards that goal.

It was a tremendous feeling knowing our county supported this college having its own identity, added Trustee Nello Williams, who said that the citizens of Campbell County have always been a “can do” group.

Trustee Olin Oedekoven said that he was very pleased with what he saw as a very decisive vote.

“I think we have a marvelous group for the Board of Trustees, and I am excited for the hard, but very good, work ahead in the months and years to come,” Oedekoven wrote in an email.

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Trustees Frank Stevens and Tracy Wasserburger did not respond to a request for comment on the election results.

The next step, the trustees feel, is to recruit and select the first Gillette Community College District president and to establish a memorandum of understanding with the Northern Wyoming Community College District (NWCCD) while seeking accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, a process that could take several years.

The NWCCD Board of Trustees are ready to go to work to help Gillette College become independent and successful, NWCCD President Walter Tribley wrote in a statement welcoming the newest community college district.

“Based on our long-standing partnership, we recognize the unique position we are in to provide specific, real-time support that will be necessary and help on the road to accreditation for the new district,” Tribley said. “I do not anticipate that current or future students enrolled in classes and programs during the transition will experience any interruptions or disruptions.”

As long as those students remain the focus throughout the transitions and decisions to come, Tribley continued, he is confident that the outcomes will be positive.