GILLETTE, Wyo.—The 2022 elections are ramping up and as a part of our goal this election cycle to let our readers know who they are voting for, County 17 will be sending out sets of questions to every candidate who wishes to announce they are running for public office.
For fairness, most of the questions are standardized, though some questions will be specific to the governbody or organization that the candidate has chosen to run for.
Candidates who wish to announce they are running for office may submit a notice to County 17 at firstname.lastname@example.org, at which point we will send the list of questions appropriate for the office sought. We request a picture with your responses.
Below, City Councilwoman Tricia Simonson, who was recently appointed to the Gillette City Council, lays out why she has chosen to run for re-election.
- Who are you?
My name is Trish Simonson. I am originally from Arizona but moved to Gillette in 1979. We were actually here to see some friends of my mom that worked at the mines. We didn’t have much money or a place to stay when we arrived so my mom pitched our tent in the front yard of a guy that had an apartment at Crazy Woman Campground. He let us use his facilities but we slept in our tent. My mom eventually found a job driving a concrete truck for Reeves Concrete which is now CC Concrete. We eventually found a basement apartment and lived there until the guy who owned the house was busted for drugs. We then moved in with my mom’s boyfriend who now is my stepdad. Gillette was pretty rough in those days! I am manager of Wyoming Art & Frame. I get to work in a beautiful gallery, filled with art from local artists and I also get to use power tools to build beautiful frames. My hobbies include writing, I published a book this year called The Road Back to You, Finding Your Way After Losing a Child to Suicide. I also love taking pictures, walking, 4 wheeling and reading.
- Why have you decided to run for office and what do you hope to accomplish should you be elected?
I have always been involved in the community. When my kids were younger I was a Girl Scout leader, I coached my kids softball, basketball and soccer teams. I was also team mom for the years my boys played football. I was an active volunteer at their schools and in our church. I also served as a co-chair on the CC Suicide Prevention Coalition and served as secretary on the Mayor’s Art Council. After our son took his life this community wrapped us in their arms. We received so much love and support from everyone. When my husband and I started advocating for prevention and awareness, the community was very receptive and many positive changes have been made because of that, so I wanted to give back. I want to be a bigger voice for everyone in Gillette. I want to bring every concern to the table and do what I can to make things better, whether it is suicide prevention, mental health awareness, diversifying our economy, supporting the growth of established businesses and helping with the success of new businesses. I also have a passion for our non-profits in Gillette; whether it is related to social service, such as the Council of Community Services, The Senior Center, GARF, YES House, Boys and Girls Club etc, business related such as Gillette Main Street or art related such as AVA. As far as what I would like to accomplish. I would like to help Gillette area businesses continue to succeed and bring new business and industry to Gillette. I would like to help Gillette be a destination that people come to enjoy. I want to help our non-profits thrive and not just get by. Many of our non-profits are struggling because funding is down and more difficult to come by but the need increases for these services every year.
- How do you plan on accomplishing your goals?
I have already been meeting with many of the non-profits in our community and speaking to them about their needs, this includes social service non-profits and business related non-profits. I also want to continue to build a working, transparent relationship with the county. We need to work together because we are not separate. I also value the expertise of my fellow council members, Administrator Kim and the employees of City of Gillette. There is such a wealth of information and knowledge. I feel that I am continuously learning something new every day. I ask a lot of questions and really value the information that I get from the people I am meeting in the community, the council and the City of Gillette. Listening and learning is a huge part of accomplishing goals. You can’t just be the Lone Ranger. We all have to work together for the good of our community. We as government officials are stewards to the people that have put us there so it is really important their voice is heard.
- What experience do you have that qualifies you for the office you are seeking?
As I said before. I have always been involved in the community, plus serving on 2 boards. I am also a go-getter. When I see a need or something that I feel needs to be better or things that people need to be more aware of, I am persistent. I am also very community oriented. I like being involved. I also think it’s important that people feel valued. That they are a part of our community and its success. I think what makes me most qualified is that I am not a politician. I am just a regular person that loves her community. All I want to do is do what is best for the people here.
- Do you feel you could be, or have been, a good steward of taxpayer dollars? Why or why not?
I do feel that I have been and will continue to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. We have had to make some tough decisions already in regards to utility hikes. Our community is in pretty good shape right now but it does look as if we will face some difficult decisions in the future if inflation, supply chain issues, the rising cost of housing and the continued move away from fossil fuels continues to affect Campbell County and the state. I also rely on the knowledge of the staff who directly work in the budget and finance department and Administrator Kim. The staff works very hard to make sure they are doing what is best for Gillette and at the same time being fiscally responsible. My family has always lived on a balanced budget so I think it is important for the government to do the same thing.
- On the issue of transparency, where do you stand on ensuring all public business is conducted openly and in a manner that encourages public attendance?
I was appointed to the City Council when the changes were made so I don’t know any different. I think transparency is important. A lot of the problems we have in government is the lack of transparency and lack of trust. I want our community to be involved. I want them at the meetings or watching them from home. I want to receive emails and phone calls with concerns. We work for the people. The community is our boss and the community needs to be our top priority. I know we aren’t going to make everyone happy but from just the little time I have been involved in the City Council, nothing is taken lightly. We go over budgets, we ask questions, we want to make sure we are doing the best for our constituents.
- How have you made your office or board more transparent and open to the public?
When I was appointed to City Council I received a handbook. That handbook is my city bible. I make sure I am following the rules. I also feel there is more conversation at our council meetings than in the past. I am very comfortable around Administrator Kim, Mayor Hanson, my fellow council members and the city staff. I feel that I can ask questions but also have light conversations with them. Sometimes it is hard to say things that you don’t agree with or you might think others will think you’re ignorant but if you don’t say those things or find out the answers to your questions, things will never change. Conversation is good, especially now that we are working more closely with the county. I definitely want to see that relationship continue to move forward.
- If you were presiding over a meeting and a topic was being discussed that you didn’t fully understand, would you ask for a more detailed explanation during the meeting or would you seek the information after the meeting?
Oh yes, I already have. I didn’t fully understand several things that have been on our agendas and I publicly asked. I have also made it a point to meet with the heads of departments and ask a lot of questions about things I didn’t know much about.
- Should you be elected, or re-elected, do you plan on seeking any major policy changes in your chosen office? If yes, what would those changes be? If not, why not?
Right now I haven’t seen any policy that I would like to change but if something came up in my term that I thought needed changed I would definitely bring that concern to Administrator Kim and have him address the Council and staff about my concerns if deemed appropriate. There are things that fall in line with what I agree with right now that Administrator Kim is doing. He is working very hard with staff, the mayor and council to be fiscally responsible and get ahead of possible economic downturn. As far as myself as a councilwoman I want to continue to bring all concerns to the table, be transparent, gain the trust of our constituents and move in a direction that continues to make Gillette a great place to live.
- What impact do you feel sports tourism has on Gillette and does that impact justify the costs associated with the Energy Capital Sports Complex, commonly referred to as the “Field of Dreams,” or any future construction costs?
This is actually an area I am just starting to learn about. The conversations that I have been involved with suggest that Gillette is a hub, so to speak, that teams want to come to. We have a lot of great facilities but from what I understand there is not enough spaces available for all the teams that want to play here and have their tournaments. This is definitely an area I don’t have a lot of expertise in but we have some very knowledgeable business organizations and council members that have been great to work with in this area. So I am just going to keep learning, asking questions and weighing the pros and cons to what is best for Gillette.
- How can the City of Gillette prepare for future economic downturns resulting from volatile energy markets and a global shift away from coal?
I think we already are. Like I said before, Administrator Kim, the mayor, staff and the council want to maintain a balanced budget. I want to work towards bringing more businesses, small and large to Gillette. I would also like more industry to come to Gillette. We have low taxes, we have the railroad that goes right through town if BNSF is willing to work on diversifying the line. We have a lot of things that could be enticing to businesses wanting to relocate. I want Gillette to be a tourist stop. We have a lot of great things in our community that can bring that tourism. Gillette has some great assets; Gillette College, a flourishing downtown, an amazing art community and way more restaurants than we used to have but at the same time I want Gillette to still have that hometown feeling. It’s definitely a balancing act but this community is filled with passionate, hard-working people that want Gillette to get better and better.