Thursday, March 25, 2010
014 - Around and round Wyoming . . . interesting stories
While you are reading this and dodging another Wyoming spring snowstorm, I hope to be walking the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.
Thus, this column shall contain some items that I have noticed in recent times around our wonderful state. For example:
• Apparently this sign has been up in front of a small restaurant on the west end of Casper for a long time, but this was the first time I had seen it.
The sign reads: “Worst food. Worst service and worst prices in town.”
Reportedly a very loyal (but grumpy) clientele frequents that place, including Tom Satterfield, formerly of Riverton. He says they have the best cinnamon rolls in the world. And yes, the waitresses are testy, he says.
• Interesting to see how former U. S. Sen. Al Simpson fares back in Washington DC as he tries to wrestle with our horrible national budget situation.
He was appointed co-chairman by President Barack Obama to try to figure what steps the country needs to get itself back on sound fiscal footing.
Big Al could not have said it better when he told CNN: “I think this is a suicide mission.”
• I had no idea that shooting pool was such a big deal in Wyoming. A few weeks ago, I wandered around the Parkway Plaza in Casper and counted 84 pool tables set up for the state championship.
Not sure who won, but the folks hanging around sure had their game faces on.
All had these fancy little man bags around their shoulders that held a number of broken down in half pool cues.
• Riverton police broke up a brawl last week with more than 80 people involved.
Two officers were assaulted and it was only after one of them sprayed pepper spray everywhere imaginable that the group broke up.
One bystander said a person in a wheelchair was one of the instigators and was seen wheeling away down the sidewalk as fast as possible to get away from the cloud of pepper spray.
This could be a very interesting court case.
• A funny writer named Janet Periat wrote about odd things that happen when you turn 50:
“As they age, most men turn into Dick Cheney. What the hell has happened to these guys? They started off as adorable men, and then they went through the Dick Cheney-izer. They lost their hair, acquired a paunch, started wearing glasses, dressed in old man clothes and now resemble human maggots. Their wives look 20 years younger. Weird thing is, the guys still think they’re hot. They are not.”
• Don’t you just love those Wyoming Cowgirls!
They even drew a crowd of more than 4,500 people to their overtime win against Texas Tech in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. What was so amazing is that all the roads in and out of Laramie were closed because of a blizzard.
That is some serious support.
• The Winter Olympics seems like a long time ago and I was disappointed that there were no Wyoming folks competing.
Two graduates of the National Outdoor Leadership School Wilderness Medicine Institute in Lander competed. They were Casey Puckett, a free-style skier and Holly Brooks, a cross-country skier.
• It’s not that the guys I have coffee with each morning are conservative, but I call them the “Fox News All-Stars.”
• Sagebrush Sven of the Buffalo Bulletin says he cannot figure out two of the mysteries of life:
First, why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
Second, Whose idea was it to put the “s’ in the word lisp?
• I have written about my big hulking Jeep Commander in this space, which is the car that I force my wife Nancy to drive in winter weather.
She doesn’t even know what brand it is. She had heard me describe it as Jeep’s attempt to emulate the Hummer.
When someone asked her what kind of car is that? She answered, “ I don’t know. I think it is an armored car.”
• Former Casperite author Ron Franscell says that dog he adopted is named Twice.
"Why Twice?" his friend asked.
"Because he never comes when I call him once."
Which former Wyoming House Speaker Fred Parady says reminds him of the fact that another former House Speaker, Rick Tempest of Casper, had a dog he called “Senator.”
Why? “So, at least one senator would come when he called him,” Fred recalls.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
2010 - 13 Where in 2010 is the next Mike Sullivan?
It would be easy for state Republican leaders to feel overconfident going into the 2010 governor’s election. But only if they did not have a nagging memory of what happened back in 1986.
With the absence of retiring Gov. Dave Freudenthal from the 2010 race, most observers think this could be slam-dunk for the GOP candidate who wins the primary.
This was the same view as 24 years ago, when an improbable candidate named Mike Sullivan quietly rolled to victory over University of Wyoming professor Pete Simpson, the brother to former U. S. Sen. Al Simpson. Pete is also the son of former governor and U. S. Sen. Milward Simpson and the uncle to current House Speaker Colin Simpson.
Talk about a pedigree, Pete Simpson had everything going for him back there in 1986.
Tall, good-looking, articulate and universally loved, the “nice brother” of the two Simpson physical giants seemed a shoo-in to win the general and maintain that Simpson dynasty.
But first, he had to get through one of Wyoming’s famous Republican primary elections, which can be donnybrooks.
He faced a very tough battle. The similarity to this year’s election is eerie.
The GOP primary had lots of candidates but the two leaders were Pete Simpson of Laramie and Bill Budd of Sublette County.
It was a very close and bitter primary election fought by closely matched foes. When it was over, the opponents did not unify against a hard-working Sullivan.
To make things even worse for the Republicans, Sullivan hired Budd’s campaign manager to take over his general campaign. That new manager knew every strength and weakness of the Simpson campaign.
Budd was then hired by retiring Gov. Ed Herschler to a high state position, which effectively took him out of the general election campaign and precluded any appearance of Republican unity.
But perhaps most important to the final result is that Sullivan ran a solid, hard-working campaign. And he was viewed by the electorate as a very conservative (and pro-life) Democrat.
Some folks back then thought the Casper lawyer was even more conservative than a freethinking UW professor.
Sullivan often reminded himself that Wyoming is just a big town with very long streets. But even in a state with less than half a million people, Sullivan discovered he was an unknown commodity, according to an article by Newcastle publisher Tom Mullen.
Mullen quotes Sullivan: “I never wanted to give up. I don’t think it ever got to that point. But one particular time, I remember, during the primary, going to Buffalo, it was probably one of the first times out.
“I was at the Busy Bee Café and introduced myself to the owners, and there were people sitting all around, old farmers. And I didn’t have any ads out, any billboards up. So it was a clearly cold call when I would introduce myself. This is really hard and it’s not likely to generate any results, either.
“Some of the most difficult times are when you’re by yourself with nothing to do. You’d say ‘I’ve got to be doing something. There’s got to be somebody out there I can talk to.’ And yet, nobody’s told you what you can do, so you feel like you’re not doing anything. And that’s part of a problem with a campaign. You’re always supposed to be doing something. You’re not supposed to be standing still.
“There’s a lot of loneliness associated with it.”
While the momentum was beginning to swing in his favor Sullivan’s campaign manager believed attack ads were needed.
Sullivan recalls: “I remember when my then-campaign manager and consultant came in and said ‘We’ve got some radio spots for you.’ I said ‘Let’s listen to them’ so they played them and I said ‘We’re not going to play those spots. Those are negative ads, I’m not doing that stuff.’
He said ‘you won’t get elected if you don’t do it.’ Now, I’ve spent a whole lifetime developing a reputation and credibility and I’m not so committed to being elected governor that I’m going to change any of the values I’ve established. If I don’t get elected, I’ve got to go back and be Mike Sullivan again.”
It was that kind of thinking that propelled him into the governor’s office. And it truly is the doomsday scenario feared by Wyoming Republicans with long memories.
You Democratic hopefuls, Larry Clapp or Mike Massie, are you taking notes on any of this?
Saturday, March 20, 2010
WBR19 - With all you are getting, get understanding
Even here in Wyoming, finding and keeping employment has become “job one” for most employees. With ten percent of the country’s workers unemployed, the despair of joblessness has descended on just about every family.
So how can a person protect himself or herself from losing their job? I have a few simple rules that could apply.
My favorite business motto is “with all you’re getting, get understanding.” This was found on the masthead of Forbes Magazine for about 50 years and it speaks volumes.
How often have we held jobs where we did what we were told to do, but really did not truly understand what was going on? For me, that happened a lot in my younger days.
I became an employer at the age of 24, and with that transition, found out what it was like to make decisions that affected those people working for me.
And often, the persons who got promoted or were kept in employment were the ones who “got it.”
If you work for a bank, do you really know how banking works? If you are a government worker, do you fully understand the laws that are guiding your reason for existence?
In today’s economy, working as a middle manager for a company or doing almost any government-type job can be risky. In an era of direct-to-the-customer marketing, the poor middleman can suddenly be expendable.
It is survival of the fittest time.
Those who work the hardest and know the most about their business should survive during difficult economic times. And as usual, the best sales people will always have job security.
Someone who knows how to sell will almost never be out of job.
It was just two years ago that Lander had a booming real estate industry like most cities and towns across Wyoming. Today, it looks like there are half as many agents still active and most of the bigger firms have downsized or merged with others.
Loyalty is another huge issue in maintaining your job security.
And this creates an odd conundrum where, on the one hand, we suggest you learn all you can about your business so that you can become indispensable or so you can easily grab another job if yours disappears. But during times of stress, many employers will retain those folks whom they consider to be most loyal.
Note that under the new Code of the West adopted by the state of Wyoming, “Ride for the Brand” is listed number seven of ten attributes to be admired.
The reality is that business is like anything else – there are winners and losers. And what happens to the losers? Extinction.
Business guru Seth Godin has a story he tells where he says “extinction” is a normal thing in the business world just as Charles Darwin predicted it in the scientific world. He uses this example:
“Imagine that you have two elephants, a male and a female. Elephants have a very long gestation cycle and only one offspring at a time, so the species is noteworthy for how long it takes them to reproduce.
“If there are no casualties-if every birth is a live one and every elephant lives a life of average length-how long will it take for the descendants of this pair of elephants to dominate the entire surface of the earth? The answer, according to Darwin, is less than five hundred years. Every few years, the population of elephants would double. And doubling gets you to big numbers very quickly.
“Obviously, almost everything dies before its time. If it didn`t, we wouldn`t have room for all the elephants. If every business that was started this year survived, we`d run out of people to staff these companies in just a year or two. If every project initiated by your company were a success, you`d be the biggest employer in town within three years and the biggest company in the world in five.
“Extinction is part of the process of creation. Failure is the cornerstone of evolution. With the vast majority of new products and initiatives going down in flames, the best strategy is not to assume the best, it`s to assume the worst. Assume that almost everything is going to fail and you`ll be right. As long as your realistic thinking doesn`t turn into negative thinking that increases your likelihood of failure, this approach guarantees that you`ll launch more initiatives more often.”
Now that is pretty good advice in this time of business uncertainty, even here in Wyoming.
Monday, March 15, 2010
2010 - 10.5 Why Gov. Dave chose not to run in 2010
Early on, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal used humor to explain confidentially why he would probably not run for a third term:
“My kids are supportive of me. They all said if I ran, they would come home and campaign. For the other guy!”
Gov. Dave Freudenthal used that funny line plus the one he has been putting out there about his son saying, “Dad, you only got 20 years left. You want to spend that time here?”
His announcement Thursday, March 4, that he would not seek a third term did not surprise me and a lot of other pundits, too. But for the past six months, he presented a heck of a good charade that he was serious about running.
In my case, when First Lady Nancy Freudenthal was appointed by President Barack Obama to a Cheyenne federal judgeship, I thought that might spur him on to seek the third term.
Prior to that, it never made any sense for him to run again.
It always appeared to me that the most lucrative law practice in Wyoming after their two terms were up would be the firm Freudenthal and Freudenthal, P. C. of Cheyenne. The best job in Wyoming is not being governor, but being ex-governor.
But once his wife Nancy was tabbed for the judgeship, it appeared that could serve as the catalyst to push Dave to seek that third term.
But her appointment created just the opposite effect.
Anyone who knows the Freudenthals, knows they love to work as a team and they really try to do as many things together as possible.
But, and this issue becomes a really big but, when you become a federal judge you end up avoiding all sorts of political and partisan events.
Unfortunately for the Freudenthals, just about everything a governor does can somehow be construed as political and partisan. There would have to be a lot fewer “first lady” events, they decided.
“Going for four more years would be tough enough and tiring enough, but doing it without my best friend and best advisor beside me . . . well, it would not be worth it.”
As to criticism that he was being disingenuous about all this, he said that is not true. He always sincerely considered running for a third term.
He also wanted to keep whatever leverage he could garner in dealing with a Republican-dominated legislature during the four-week budget session, which just concluded.
Although I had written two statewide columns speculating that he might run in early January, he told me these conclusions off the record at the end of the month and in confidence and I said that I would respect that until he announced his decision. And yet, I still was not sure if he could resist the temptation or not. He loves being governor.
We had gotten to known the Freudenthals pretty well during his first campaign in 2002 and always kept in touch.
For the longest time during his second term, he would flirt with the notion of a third term, always couching it in terms like “leverage with the Republicans” and “didn’t see any other Democrats coming up” or “there is still a lot to do” or even, finally, “when economic times get tough, that makes governing a lot more interesting.”
I never really thought he really would go for a third term until the state press convention in Casper in mid-January.
He really did act more like a candidate than an incumbent.
He admitted that with the end getting near, he knew how much he was going to miss it. And was seriously pondering making a run at it.
This was despite the admonitions from his family, who over Christmas, had unanimously urged him not to.
So in the end, all the talk about a third term was just that – talk.
The governor’s decision could make this a one party election season with whomever getting through the GOP primary pretty much having his or her way in the general, it would seem.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
2010 - 12 The awesome wisdom of the American Jury
“Just go ahead and hang the poor devil,” famed defense attorney Gerry Spence told members of the Wyoming press during a presentation 25 years ago.
He was trying to convince the press that even though a person has been charged with a crime and is going to trial, it does not mean that person is guilty.
Mr. Spence, who went on to become one of the most famous trial lawyers in the country, made quite an effect on those reporters and editors that day in Cheyenne.
His comments were on my mind this past week, as I served on a criminal trial jury for the first time.
As a journalist, I have covered dozens of trials. This was the first time being called to a jury panel where the attorneys didn’t automatically kick me off.
Hmm, this could be interesting.
Over the decades, I had also covered three of Mr. Spence’s high profile trials. But there was little doubt the attorneys in this case could live up to that expectation.
Last week, Mr. Spence was back in Jackson, not in a stuffy courtroom in Lander.
Presiding over this case was Judge Norman Young. He had been one of three Wyoming attorneys nominated to be the new U. S. Federal Judge in Cheyenne. He and Rock Springs attorney Ford Bussart were passed over in favor of First Lady Nancy Freudenthal. But I digress.
This case was classic old time Wyoming. It started as a property line dispute and escalated to a showdown involving loaded pistols and shotguns.
A neighbor assembled a dozen people to build a new fence that closed off a two-acre parcel that the defendant, Leroy “Sonny” Harris, felt belonged to him. That dispute had already resulted in a temporary restraining order on the land south of Riverton.
Mr. Harris in his younger days was one of Fremont County’s legendary tough guys, having been known to clean out a bar all by himself. He was in Riverton celebrating his 67th birthday on the critical day back in November. When he returned home, he was shocked to see these folks building a fence.
Some pretty salty cursing ensued and the defendant went into his trailer house and returned with a loaded double barrel shotgun, announcing, “Get out or I am going to kill you all.”
The fence builders videotaped the events as they headed for cover. One grabbed a pistol, crawled under a pickup and aimed it at the defendant who was positioned behind a horse trailer, still cursing to high heaven.
The Sheriff’s Office was called and soon an officer arrived and the situation became somewhat calmer.
Deputy Darwin Glasgow was able to talk the defendant into going back into his trailer and leaving his shotgun there.
To the defendant’s surprise, when he returned (still cursing), the deputy attempted to arrest him. “No, you aren’t,” he replied and turned away.
Deputy Glasgow is five inches taller than the defendant, 50 pounds heavier and 25 years younger. It was not much of a fight. The deputy used pepper spray and then kneed Mr. Harris five times, knocking him to the ground, causing the defendant to believe he was having a heart attack.
The standoff was over as other officers arrived. The defendant was later charged with felony aggravated assault and interfering with an officer, a misdemeanor.
It was our job to listen to the evidence and come to verdicts.
The jury was a wonderful group of Fremont County folks. Nine guys and three gals. Three from Lander, six from Riverton, two from Dubois and one from Shoshoni.
We bonded well and it took about five hours find Mr. Harris not guilty of the felony and guilty of the misdemeanor. We felt the defendant acted in self-defense. But when the deputy arrived, he needed to respect that badge.
The trial was unique in that both Prosecutor Pat LeBron and Public Defender Sara Robinson were handling their first major criminal jury trials. Both did well with friendly corrections from Judge Young, who in his previous careers, held both positions.
Most of the jurors went into the trial dreading it. Yet if you asked any of us afterward, we found it educational and rewarding.
This was a lesson about one of the most basic human rights found in our federal constitution, the right to a jury trial by your peers.
Thanks to all those folks in that courtroom, we emerged both humbled and exhilarated by the awesome deciding power of an American jury.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
2010 - 11 Is this the most important job in the world?
With all due respect to teachers, doctors, presidents and soldiers, I have always thought that folks who take care of our little children have the most important jobs in the world.
Even the state has recognized this fact with Gov. Dave Freudenthal and the Wyoming Business Council identifying the need for quality childcare as among the most important attributes of a thriving economy.
It was with some of those thoughts in mind that I pondered what to say to a group of childcare providers when our company was asked to talk to them about marketing, public relations and entrepreneurship.
So, how should I kick off my talk?
While showering before the event March 5, I was rolling various ideas around in my head and it occurred to me that to do good marketing, you need self-confidence. Because without a healthy self-image, it is hard to market yourself. Self-confidence breeds success.
With that thought in mind, it was easy to remind them that they needed to keep in mind these three affirmations:
I like myself.
I love my job.
My job is the most important job in the world.
It was going to be my task to remind them of how important they are in the world we live in. Without good childcare, it is just about impossible for both parents to work. And in today’s economy, you often need to have both parents working.
With the theme resolved, my next problem was how to learn as much about what they are doing and how we can apply modern marketing techniques.
Central Wyoming College has me teaching an entrepreneurship class every so often. Lori Morrow, who heads the Fremont County Child Development Services, asked me to incorporate some of this entrepreneurship wisdom into this talk, too.
While staring out at 64 women and one man, it was hard to deduce what advice would work best for them.
Should it be general advice? That would be easy.
Or should we drill down and try to find out where their individual problems were and try to solve them? This latter approach seemed like it might offer them the help they were seeking. Here were some of their concerns:
• One gal wondered how you keep good employees?
My answer was that you solve most of your employee problems at the hiring stage. We all need to work harder on the hiring process.
Experience also has shown that one of the main components of a good work environment is the people with whom you work. A good team will attract other good employees.
• Another asked about insurance and incorporating. It was surprising to see that so few were incorporated and some did not even have insurance. We talked about the protection of a corporate umbrella and it was alarming to learn how some folks could operate a childcare operation without adequate insurance.
• Another question was about when to raise their rates.
Most businesses do not raise rates often enough. Costs can be soaring for a long time before most business owners realize they have to raise rates, too.
• With 64 women in the room, I thought almost all would be on the Facebook Internet site, but it was just over half.
Facebook is a great way to market yourself (you need to be subtle) and the free service can provide a great way to communicate with others like you.
Just about everyone had email, so we talked about using email to communicate with clients, which most did. But not often enough.
Unique to Lander is the ubiquitous Internet service called Lander Talk, which can provide some free marketing avenues.
My colleague Ernie Over talked to them about how to work with the local media, including newspapers and radio stations. He advised how the local media is always looking for good story ideas and everyone loves stories and photos of kids doing cute things.
The crowd ranged from a gal with eight kids she was watching herself to three large businesses with more than 60 youngsters, each.
We filled a white board with ideas and marketing buzzwords and just about covered everything.
At first, it seemed like 120 minutes would be an eternity but it was actually over before we covered everything.
Our goals were to both make them take pride in the important jobs they do and to realize that they are running businesses. And businesses need to be marketed in order to be successful in the final analysis.
Monday, March 01, 2010
2010 - 10 What is a Wyoming Republican Firing Squad?
Wyoming’s Republican insiders always worry about something occurring in their primary that they call “a Republican Firing Squad.”
Want to know how a GOP primary election firing squad works, you might ask?
The candidates stand in a circle and start shooting, gradually knocking off each other.
By the time the primary is done, whoever survives is so battered, that an unknown, but hard-working Democrat comes along and wins the general election.
Now this description is way, way too simplistic, but history shows that sometimes this is exactly what happens.
With the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary looking like one of the tightest in history, the potential for some sort of mutual slaughter is possible.
It is easy to give some much-deserved credit to State Auditor Rita Meyer for calling for a moratorium on negative ads. A good idea.
This, of course, should not mean that they should restrain from offering up hard-hitting factual ads that differentiate them from their opponents.
This year’s race reminds me of the first governor race that I covered after moving to Wyoming in late 1970. It was the 1974 race and Republicans were looking to someone to replace retiring Gov. Stan Hathaway.
An outstanding field was in the race that included the late Roy Peck, a newspaperman from Riverton, recently retiring U. S. Judge Bud Brimmer of Rawlins, Legislator Dick Jones of Powell and Sheridan rancher Malcolm Wallop.
The candidates worked hard but in the end, the candidate who probably had the worst statewide general election base emerged the victor. Dick Jones had a strong archconservative following, which got him narrowly through the primary but did not offer him the strength to win the general against another legislator, Ed Herschler of Kemmerer.
Although this race was 36 years ago and Wyoming’s population was somewhat lower (though, there were a lot more Democrats), a look at how that race turned out is very interesting. For example:
Jones – 15,502 (26.5%)
Wallop – 14,688 (25%)
Peck – 14,217 (24.5 %)
Brimmer – 14,014 (24 %)
Mr. Jones was defeated in the general by Mr. Herschler by 71,741 votes to 56,645, a pretty decisive loss for the Repubs.
That 1974 doomsday scenario was repeated over and over in the minds of Republican leaders as they have seen Democrats win the governor’s race in the general election seven of the last nine times.
This year’s race with four candidates running very close races could end up with a similar close primary race result.
Candidates include House Speaker Colin Simpson (R-Cody), State Auditor Meyer of Cheyenne, former state Ag Commissioner Ron Micheli of Fort Bridger and former U. S. Attorney Matt Mead of Cheyenne.
Perhaps the only thing missing from this year’s scenario is a strong announced Democrat candidate. When two-term Gov. Dave Freudenthal announced last Thursday that he is choosing to not run again, the Republican primary winner looks like a decisive favorite to win the general election. That primary winner should have pretty clear sailing in the general, unless . . .
What if there is a relatively unknown Mike Sullivan-type Democrat candidate lurking out there waiting to make his or her move after the governor announces his decision?
We could see Paul Hickey of Cheyenne or Debbie Hammons of Worland positioning themselves for a run. Or Mike Massie of Laramie or Leslie Peterson of Jackson. Stay tuned.
But lets go back again to 1974: I remember Dick Jones as a fairly gruff-looking, very serious and quite balding older man who, at least to the public, seemed to not have any sense of humor.
During a local candidate forum that I was moderating in Lander in early 1974, we were informed that Mr. Jones “ had arrived” and wanted to speak at our event.
As a 27-year old newspaper editor, I stood up for our format, and denied him that chance. After all, we were in Fremont County, which was Roy Peck country and the Riverton Ranger publisher was not there. But there were plenty of Jones supporters present and quite a ruckus broke out, totally interrupting our forum.
As I recall, we finally allowed him to be introduced but I held to my guns, which forever angered the Jones folks who had come to the meeting en masse, to hear their man.
Later while interviewing him, I found him to be a good guy but, at the time, just too conservative and lacking a vision for Wyoming. It was no surprise to me that he lost so handily in the general.