County Commissioner Travis Becker and Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness discussed issues following last week’s meeting of the Fremont County Association of Governments. (Ernie Over photo)
(Riverton, Wyo.) – By consensus, the Fremont County Association of Governments last week agreed that a discussion on race relations, if nothing else, is in order in Fremont County.
Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness brought the idea to FCAG after Riverton City Council members said the problem was countywide and wasn’t something they would pursue by themselves.
“I’m going into this with some trepidation,” Warpness said in bringing up the issue. “I think everyone is familiar with the incident outside a Riverton bar that generated negative media discussion of racist overtones (a fight in which a Native American man received serious facial injuries inflicted by a caucasian man).” Warpness said he has a meeting planned with the Tribes of the Wind River Reservation “to discuss racial issues and come to some understanding and ideas to address some of these issues in a more successful manner,” but he also said he had been approached about a different strategy.
The mayor said the issue was brought to him by a Reservation resident, Wayland Oldman, who presented an idea “that I think has some merit.” Warpness said the suggestion was to form a Human Rights Commission. “His focus was just on Riverton, and I didn’t feel that was accurate, and I took umbrage with it. I think we need to address both sides countywide and with a human relations committee, and not a commission,” he said. “I would like to suggest to the Tribes that we are bringing this forward. I’m willing to give it a chance.”
Warpness said the committee would have no binding power or authority, and it would only be as good as the people who comprise it. “We need people of integrity and respect and who, over time, could reach a level that would have some weight in the community.” The Riverton mayor said the fight incident was blown out of proportion “because there is no other way for people to vent right now.”
County Commissioner Travis Becker said he was concerned about hearing only one side of a story. “It’s scary, If I had a complaint (and went to the committee), you’d listen to me, not what the other side had to say. I think you’re setting yourself up.”
“No, not at all. This is just a draft idea, obviously if you hear one side, you want to call the other guy and find out what’s going on,” Warpness said.
Lander Mayor Mick Wolfe said when he receives a complaint, “I always contact the other party, Most time the stories vary quite differently,” he said. But Wolfe also said, “if we let things go the way they are, they will get worse, then we’re remiss in our duties.”
“That’s the way I see it,” Warpness said.
FCAG Chairman and Pavillion Mayor Gary Hamlin said he favored the idea, “at least there would be discussion on it.”
“It’s worth taking a look at and talking about, ” Wolfe said. “It’s worthy of discussion, certainly.