by nathan oster
A special Friday night meeting of the Greybull Town Council ended the way it began — with a governing body of four and one empty chair.
Mayor Bob Graham and Councilmen Bob McGuire, Myles Foley and Clay Collingwood failed to reach a consensus in their first attempt to appoint someone to complete the remaining two years of Graham’s council term.
Les Lowe, Rod Collingwood, Ross Jorgensen, Lindsey Casey and Dave Havener had filed letters of interest with the town, but none of them received the three votes necessary to secure the appointment.
With Foley leaving town for a month and legal counsel needing time to determine where the town goes from here, the council isn’t expected to pick the matter up again until sometime in March.
The meeting began with each of the five candidates taking a turn at the podium. Each offered brief overviews of their background and qualifications, as well as their reasons for pursuing the appointment.
Lindsay Casey went first. She told the council that she, her husband Brent (a Greybull police officer) and their children had lived in the community for five years and that they are enjoying their time in the community. She teaches dance classes and works as a substitute teacher, but admitted her favorite job is being a homemaker.
Casey summed up her candidacy by saying she simply “wants to stand up for what is good and right, morally.”
Les Lowe noted that he has lived in the Greybull community for 44 years and held various jobs. For the past eight, he has worked for Tim Kershner Construction. Lowe ran for office in the fall and got 183 votes in the general election, trailing both Foley, with 494, and Collingwood, 478.
Lowe said he would like to see more businesses brought to town and for the industrial park lots to be developed.
Jorgensen said he has lived in Greybull for the past 15 years. He spent six years as the town’s public works director and is currently employed as a circuit rider for the Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems.
In his presentation, he emphasized his work with various governing bodies on water-related issues, as well as his experience in working with funding agencies, managing budgets, reviewing construction plans and dealing with the Department of Environmental Quality.
Jorgensen said he was pursuing the vacant position because, at two years, it wouldn’t require as big of a commitment as a four-year term. He offered ideas for growing the local economy and said he wanted to make the community a better place for kids.
Rod Collingwood is also a longtime member of the Greybull community, spending all but a couple years of his life here. He is currently employed by TCT.
In his presentation, Collingwood spoke about the last election cycle. He was one of four candidates to file for the two openings. He ran in the primary, received 188 votes and finished third (behind Foley, 261 votes, and Clay Collingwood, 231, but ahead of Lowe, 85 votes), but publicly withdrew from the race prior to the general election. Because the ballot had already been printed, his name still appeared on the ballot in November; Greybull voters gave him 134 votes.
Collingwood explained his withdrawal from the race by citing “health issues” and “changes with my work.” Fearing he would not be able to give 100 percent to the job, he backed out. But he told council members Friday that he was healthy and ready to serve.
“I didn’t want to water down the vote, but as it turned out, there were still some votes that came in for me and had that effect,” Collingwood said, adding that after the general, several people asked him why he withdrew. “Then this opportunity came about … and here I am before you.”
Havener, currently the pastor of Greybull Alliance Church, told the council that he’s been in the ministry for 30 years, and that of all the stops he’s made, Greybull tops the list. “I envy those who say they have grown up here,” he said “I’d love to be able to say I’ve been here for 50 years.”
Havener said he was simply interested in serving the community, that he had no agenda, and looked forward to working with others with a common goal of bettering the community. Like Jorgensen, he said he viewed the two-year position as a more appealing option than a four-year term.
With one seat vacant, Bob Graham, the town’s mayor, announced before the discussion began that he would be voting — but that state statute prohibits the mayor from either making a motion or seconding one. For that reason, the decision of whom to nominate rested with the three councilmen.
Turning to face the candidates and audience, Councilman Bob McGuire said he had given considerable thought to the five candidates and their letters of interest, and that the task before the council would be to find the person who is best for the town of Greybull.
McGuire didn’t say which candidate he preferred, just that his goal was to appoint “someone who is better than me.”
Clay Collingwood said that while he felt all of the candidates hearts were in the right place, he favored one candidate for sticking with it. Foley concurred, saying that he, too, had made up his mind as to whom he would like to see appointed to the vacancy.
Moments later, Foley nominated Lowe for the position. Collingwood seconded Foley’s motion, pointing out that Lowe filed to be a candidate, answered the questions put to him by the newspaper and people attending a candidate’s forum before the election and stayed in the race until the end. Added Foley: “He stuck with it, went through the process and does represent quite a few people in this town who voted for him.”
When the vote was taken Foley and Collingwood voted “aye,” Graham and McGuire voted “nay.” The motion died, however, because three votes were needed to represent a majority of the governing body.
With Lowe out of the picture, McGuire offered a second motion, nominating Rod Collingwood. But that motion was met by silence, as neither Foley nor Collingwood offered a second. When sufficient time had passed, Graham stated that motion died for lack of a second.
Hearing that, Foley attempted a second time to nominate Lowe, but was informed by Town Attorney Scott McColloch that since a vote had already occurred, there could not be another one that night.
In an attempt to head off the impasse, one of the three remaining candidates, Jorgensen, withdrew his letter of interest and threw his support behind Rod Collingwood, calling him a good businessman who understands economics and infrastructure.
That left just two candidates: Casey and Havener. As the discussion began to shift to where the town goes from here, McColloch noted that the council was not yet out of options, citing the two candidates who had not been nominated.
McGuire said he didn’t think it mattered — and Foley and Collingwood proved him right by saying they were comfortable with their decision to back Lowe and did not wish to make another motion.
Foley will be out of town in February, and with plenty of legal questions to investigate, the council agreed to table the matter until March. McColloch suggested that if it cannot be resolved by the council, it may need to go to a district judge.
As of now, the town plans to re-advertise for letters of interest prior to the March meeting.
In an interview Monday, Mayor Bob Graham took the blame for the impasse, saying that as the leader of the council, he should have anticipated that a stalemate might occur and had McColloch research options prior to the meeting.