By the time the November issue of the Wyoming Business Report reaches your desk, the election will be over. The candidates will be quiet. And hopefully, whoever was elected can begin to focus on what needs to be done for the nation instead of "for more years." The debates on Wyoming Public Television, which I was privileged to have helped out with, were some of the most satisfying I've seen. The candidates all came out and answered our questions - for the most part - with candor and sincerity. I left the Little Theater at Central Wyoming College with a real sense of where each of the candidates was coming from, and what they might do for Wyoming if elected.
Which is really the whole idea. Anyone can buy a slick ad campaign, given enough cash. And often, especially in Wyoming, candidates have very little cash and so don't get the exposure they need to make their positions – and our choice - clear.
A debate is wonderfully democratic. The truck driver, the doctor, the teacher, the entrepreneur and the incumbent congresswoman all sat at the same table and were, for the duration, equals.
To see each candidate think and respond, both to the questions the panel gave and to each other, was to see them as they were. There were no teleprompters, no spin doctors whispering in their ears. Just them. For my part, I was delighted to get to know them all. Now that the election is over, Americans have the opportunity to show the world how democracy is done: peacefully and with graceful acceptance, even if the outcome is not always what you wished for. The candidates showed this in microcosm during the debates, when they sparred verbally and then shook hands graciously afterwards. The Democrat congressional candidate, Chris Henrichsen, was obviously charmed when the incumbent Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis sought him out to shake his hand.
The American Government class at Lander Valley High School sent in a batch of questions for the debates, and many of them got all dressed up and drove over to Riverton to watch the debates live. Will I sound like an old fogey if I say how proud I was of them, by the respect they showed the process by ditching the jeans and putting on dresses and suits?
The high school students' questions were good ones, and I wish we'd had enough time to use them all. Three of the questions shared a common theme: frustration with the lack of achievement by the current Congress and Senate, due to what they see as mutually obstructive partisan politics. Many of these kids are getting ready to vote for the first time this election. They are paying attention, and they don't like what they've seen so far.
It is my hope that we can transition from partisanship to focusing on what the country needs. Many third party candidates made it sound as if the end was near if we don't change. I think the change that is most needed is for this election's winners to remember what we've sent you to Washington, to Cheyenne, to the County Commission or to City Hall for. You are there to work for us and for the common good. Please see that you do so.
I went to Memphis last week to help my husband install a bronze sculpture of a tiger at the University of Memphis. Flying in to the city, on a plane no bigger than the jets serving Casper or Jackson, you realize that the airport is not primarily there for passenger flights. It’s there for FedEx. For years, every single package shipped by FedEx was routed through the company’s Memphis hub. Didn’t matter if you were in Singapore and had to ship across the street, your package made the trip to Memphis and back by the very next day. The man who came up with the idea for FedEx , Frederick W. Smith, went to high school in Memphis and still lives there. His idea for the overnight commercial delivery company was first written up as an economics term paper while he was a student at Yale. He earned a “C” and was told that the idea was not feasible. After graduation and a tour of duty in Vietnam, he founded FedEx in 1973. In the first two years of operation, the venture lost $27 million. Today, the company has $31 billion in annual revenues and functions from hubs set around the world. Pretty good for a “C” paper.
The news came at us sideways, when Renny McKay, the governor’s press secretary called asking for confirmation that Denny Curran, our founding editor and great friend, had passed. Journalists usually know where to go to find answers – but for once I was stumped. I didn’t want to bother the family in case it was true, and the most connected people I knew in Cheyenne had not heard anything yet. So I had time to hope that the rumor was just that. After all, Denny was working on a story for me. It was difficult for him, as he’d been sick for the past couple of weeks, but he wanted to get it done. Wendy, his wife, told me it gave him something to focus on. And, Denny had been sick before, so I’d hoped this was more of the same. We’d just talked on Friday and he sounded like his old self. But then, he emailed me on Saturday that he’d had ‘a bit of a relapse’ – and that was the last I heard from him. He died on Easter Sunday, but not before giving his wife a final Easter present. That was Denny all over – a giving sweetheart of a man. We will miss his spirit and we will miss his editorial insight.
Pipelines are essential for the oil and gas industry. But recent history reminds us that pipeline safety is equally essential. The explosive break in the nearly-new Bison pipeline outside of Gillette this week happened in a remote area. But it shouldn't have happened at all. The blast that shook nearby ranch buildings, and the jet engine roar of escaping pressurized gas that followed were the worst things to happen this time. But it could have easily been in a crowded area, with ignition sources that could have turned the break into a fiery maelstrom. I hope industry considers this accident to be a warning shot, and takes appropriate measures to safeguard the people who live near those essential pipelines.