GILLETTE, Wyo. — Election season is well underway and County 17 has sent a list of questions to each candidate who has filed to run for a municipal office.
These questions are designed to give our readers a better understanding of the people behind the names on the ballot. All candidate responses submitted to County 17 are republished as they are received.
Below, get to know Heidi Gross who is running for a seat on the Gillette City Council as a representative of Ward 3:
- Who are you?
My name is Heidi Gross. I am a 33 year resident of Gillette, originally from Aberdeen, SD. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from Northern State University and earned my Master’s Degree from Regis University. I am the Executive Director of Gillette College Foundation. I have led the foundation since January 2014. I enjoy singing with Gillette Chamber Singers, exercising, participating in community events, and most of all spending time with my grandchildren, ages 4 and 7.
- Why have you decided to run for office and what do you hope to accomplish should you be elected?
I am running for City Council Ward 3 because I am passionate about our community and want Gillette to thrive, not survive. In order to do that, we need to be proactive, not reactive to economic uncertainty. I believe we need to continue to invest where it makes economic sense to do so in the long term, with consequences in mind.
- How do you plan on accomplishing your goals?
If elected, I will make sound decisions based on facts and consider all sides on an issue. I will listen to my constituents and vote accordingly as I will be representing them. I will also conduct myself with integrity and honesty.
- What experience do you have that qualifies you for the office you are seeking?
I served three years as a director of the Public Land Board. I understand public meeting laws, public funding, and the importance of transparency and confidentiality. I have 10 plus years experience in leading and serving on nonprofit boards.
- Do you feel you could be a good steward with taxpayer dollars? Why or why not?
Absolutely. As a land board director, we are responsible for the Cam-Plex budget which is funded by the City and County. I am also responsible for the financial management of the assets of the Gillette College Foundation. In both of these roles, I manage funds with prudence, integrity, honesty, and in accordance with board policies. I take both of these roles very seriously.
- 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?
Transparency is key to instilling trust in our citizens. As a land board director, all of our meetings were conducted openly. Public comment was encouraged. The Land Board also conducted special meetings to solicit public feedback when necessary. Public business should always be conducted in an open, welcoming environment so citizens feel comfortable discussing any issues they may have.
- Do you believe the office or board position you seek has been open and honest with the public? If yes, how can the entity remain open and transparent when conducting public business moving forward. If not, what changes would you implement to ensure that all future dealings are open and transparent?
The City Council had issues with transparency and conducting meetings in accordance with public meeting laws. However, I believe they have taken great steps in changing the way they conduct business. A third party investigation was conducted and the administration and the City Council are making positive changes based on the findings. I believe they are moving forward in a positive way and the issues have been addressed.
- If you are 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?
It depends. If it is a topic that we are taking action on, I would absolutely raise the question for more information. I would not take action on an issue that I do not fully understand. If it is something that is informational only or something that is raised in conversation that is not pertinent, I would probably ask the administrator after the meeting to be better informed before the topic comes up again.
- 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 at this time. If elected, it would take me some time to become familiar with all the departments. The only policy change I thought was needed has already been addressed and that is how public meetings are conducted.
- What impact do you feel sports tourism has on Gillette and does that impact justify the costs of the Energy Capital Sports Complex, commonly referred to as the “Field of Dreams”?
I think sports tourism has a huge impact on the community as a whole. In 2020, the economic impact of the Energy Capital Sports Complex was $1.4m. During my tenure at Cam-Plex we approved the purchase of wrestling mats and sports flooring to encourage wrestling tournaments, basketball, volleyball, and soccer tournaments. All of these events bring people into our community. They are staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, shopping, and providing 1% tax revenue. They also provide our community with activities they can participate in. We are fortunate to live in a community with top-notch facilities that provide citizens and visitors with a great experience.
- How can your community prepare for future economic downturns resulting from volatile energy markets and a potential global shift away from coal?
We need to continue to support our legacy industries as best as we can. Ultimately, it will be the market that determines coal and oil/natural gas usage. We should continue to support the technologies, such as the Integrated Test Center, the Wyoming Innovation Center, and carbon storage technologies to continue to use the abundant resource of coal. We also need to encourage investment in these new technologies. Hopefully, the EDA will approve the loan for the Pronghorn Industrial Park, which is another positive step in welcoming new industry in Campbell County. We can best prepare by being proactive, not reactive to current situations. We need to evaluate the pros and cons of every decision but must also realize that we cannot run from reality. We should embrace change and look toward the future, not run from it