I grew up on a working cattle ranch established by my great grandparents in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. From an early age, my sister, my brother and I were expected to shoulder part of the load from milking cows, to branding, to fencing and everything in between. Many years, we would spend time at our summer ranch which had no indoor plumbing or electricity. These rural experiences shaped my appreciation for hard work, and my approach to, many of today’s challenges relating to energy, conservation and technology.
Wyoming’s top industries are Minerals, Tourism and Agriculture. These industries benefit Wyoming and the nation. Not surprisingly, as Governor, my work included a focus on natural resources. During my eight years in office I worked with industry leaders, communities and individuals to address problems and provide innovative strategies for the future of these leading industries.
For example, as Chairman of the Western Governors Association and Co-Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee for the National Governors Association, I worked to improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA). I gathered conservation groups, hunting associations, agriculture, industry and others to work together and come to agreements on important reforms. These were developed to meet the goals of the Act, serve multiple interests and remove barriers to responsible usage of the land. I testified before Congress several times about the need for change to benefit sensitive species and the lands affected by the Act.
One species in particular rose to the forefront; the sage grouse. The management of sage grouse is critical to the future of the West. Colorado Governor Hickenlooper and I, working in bipartisan cooperation, were the first governors to receive the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award for our work on sage grouse. Together, with many others, we provided a framework to protect the bird while allowing for reasonable development.
Wyoming produces more coal than any other state. To address the challenges of coal in electricity generation, I established the Integrated Test Center in Campbell County. The Integrated Test Center is located at a Wyoming coal fired plant and is designed to capture and utilize carbon from the plant. Through a competition created in partnership with XPRIZE, a 10 million dollar prize is available to the entering team that develops a way to capture and use carbon from a coal plant most effectively. This in turn is intended to address the issue of CO2 in the atmosphere and to revitalize coal. I directed the development of Wyoming’s Energy Strategy, a Water Strategy and Outdoor Recreation Strategy. These strategies are made up of initiatives developed by companies and leaders across Wyoming. They address current challenges and the future direction of the state through projects that include water, conservation, recreation, tourism and mineral development. They are structured to be forward thinking, make a difference and to be evolving. The overriding policy is that our natural resources must be developed, but developed in a way that complements are land and way of life.
As Governor, I also focused on growing and diversifying Wyoming’s Economy. During my Administration, Wyoming was recognized several times as one of the best run states in the Country. My work included international trade missions to China, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, India, and Taiwan. These visits resulted in improved relationships and concrete market opportunities with mutual benefits. I spearheaded the opening of a trade office in Taipei and built a strong relationship with two presidents of Taiwan. I started ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversity for Wyoming) a focused effort of committed individuals to improve Wyoming’s economic foundation. It successfully is giving Wyoming a roadmap for long term diversification.
The ongoing success of these efforts require educational opportunity and infrastructure. I led the state to dedicate 200 million dollars to the University of Wyoming-100 million to improve the school of engineering and another 100 million dollars for a science initiative to provide the education that will be needed for today’s graduates. I focused on strengthening our education system and growing technology. I worked with the University, Community Colleges and K-12 education to strengthen STEM education. I founded the Jackson Hole Global Technology Summit to bring together innovators in technology. This summit addresses possibilities ranging from rural health care solutions to vertical take off vehicles. The summit has established Wyoming as a technology leader committed to real solutions. It continues to grow and to attract high profile groundbreakers committed to making a difference.
To state the obvious, digital connectivity is critical for economic success. I developed the Wyoming Broadband Summit to bring key stakeholders together to improve Wyoming’s connectivity. In 2010, only two Wyoming counties had ethernet broadband. By the end of my first term, the state had built a 100 gigabit network that included a broadband loop around the state. We now have speed, capacity and redundancy. Today every county has ethernet and Wyoming schools are in the top tier in terms of speed and capacity. Technology is key to the future and over my time in office, Wyoming has moved to the front of the race. Other work includes advanced laws on blockchain technology, telemedicine, and fiber in highway right of ways.
My administration took on the large task of renovating Wyoming’s Capitol-a multi year project that included the closing of the capitol, relocation of agency staff, and managing the project. This renovation was successfully completed with the reopening of the Capitol on July 10th, 2019. It was 300 million dollar, long and complex project and it was worth the time and effort. We now have, after 130 years, a fully renovated, historically true and modernly equipped building.
The welfare of people is important to me and to all of us. Social issues are some of the most difficult and heart wrenching. I addressed the homeless issue that every state faces, establishing a 10 year action plan to address homelessness in Wyoming. My time serving many meals to the homeless drew attention to the issue and I believe helped people understand the challenges they face. I also worked on suicide, bullying and school safety. Measurable improvements were made on all fronts.
As Governors and others have to do I made tough decisions on the budget. Due to declining mineral prices I had to reduce the state budget and in so doing found efficiencies and ultimately provided a better government.
One of the great privileges of being governor is serving as Commander and Chief of the National Guard. I was honored to be one of ten governors (five republican, five democrats) to have served on President Obama’s Council of Governors that worked directly with the Joint Chiefs of Staff including the Secretary of Defense. I supported in every way the Guard including travelling to see troops, in Kosovo, Cuba, Bahrain, Qatar, Germany and Afghanistan.
When I took office, in the history of our Supreme Court (Wyoming, the Equality State) had only one female Justice. The governor appoints the Court from a group of candidates brought forward by the Judicial Nominating Commission. I’m proud to say at the end of my term, the majority of the Court, three highly qualified people, are women.
I must point out in mentioning what I believe are important accomplishments does not provide a complete story. I had help at every step along the way. I have had great good fortune in hiring and working with the best, the brightest and most dedicated people anyone could find. As with any success, good fortune and great people have allowed me to accomplish many of my goals.
I had an exceptional upbringing. I have a wonderful loving family. My great grandparents’ legacy, homesteading in Wyoming, gave me deep roots and a love for my state. My dad taught me the value of hard work. My mother taught me not to fear failure in the pursuit of a dream. My great grandfather was a state senator, my grandfather was governor and a two term U.S. Senator and my mother ran and lost a competitive general election for governor. These are the people that instilled in me-not ambition for politics-but an ambition to make better the place where I, my family, friends and neighbors, live and work. My family has a motto, “where you find one blade of grass, leave two”. In other words, live up to the obligation to make things better for those who come after you.
- Environment and Natural
- Resources Technology
- Business and Corporate Law