City Administrator Steven Weaver announced the results of the vote to appoint two new members of the Riverton City Council as Administrative Services Director Courtney Bohlender looked on. (Ernie Over photo)
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Tuesday night’s appointment of two new city council members by the sitting council was close in Ward III with Martin Cannan defeating former council member John “Lars” Baker 3-2. Baker was re-elected to his council seat in the last election, but due to a state statute requirement, he had to resign his seat in December in order to fully retire after leaving his post with Fremont County Weed and Pest. After a statutory wait of 30 days, he was again eligible for the city council, and he had applied for his former seat. But his fellow council members chose the newcomer Cannan over their former colleague.
“I was disappointed in the decision, I thought they would honor the voter’s choice,” Baker told County10.com today. “I was elected, but I didn’t end up on the same side of the issues enough with some of the other council members. They took an opportunity to make a change.”
Will he run for the office when it comes up again in the next election? “At this point I don’t know. Between now and then there will be a lot of opportunities for me to get involved in something. If I’m still looking for some way to serve and be of value in the community, then I may go ahead and do it,” he said. “But I haven’t had an offer yet today.” Baker let out one of his big and long laughs after that last remark. He said it was ironic that his retirement would’ve given him more time to serve the city. “I still have some talent.”
In Ward I, the vote to replace Eric Heiser wasn’t as close. Kyle Larson garnered three of the five council votes, with Phil Lavoie and Waylon Oldman each receiving one vote. There were no votes cast for former council member Betty Malicki.
Interestingly, during most of the evening Larson never looked up, except for a few times while answering questions during his interview. The rest of the time he cast his head downward, even during the swearing in ceremony and after he took his seat on the council.
Baker looks back
Baker’s career on the Riverton City Council began when he was appointed to a vacant seat. He won his last two elections. Asked what he thought would be his legacy of his eight years of service, he said he never had an agenda nor a list of things he wanted to see accomplished.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t make more headway with voters on a recreation center,” he said. “We came it at when there were many issues on the ballot, people didn’t want any more taxes.” Baker said it was good the city’s goal of better streets was accomplished with passage of the one cent tax monies. “We have a great Chief of Police in place, Mike (Broadhead) is doing a wonderful job,” he said, “Steven Weaver is working out very nicely as city administrator, too.”
While he did not take credit for it, Baker said he was very pleased with the city’s current financial standing. “I witnessed the cities financial audits change from ones that were highly qualified and sketchy to very clean with positive comments from the auditors. I’ve seen that transition take place, the city is doing a great job in that and that reflects on the city staff. They have functioned very well.”
“What impresses me about being on the city council is that some things you think you would be involved in never rise to the surface, so you end up doing things you didn’t expect,” he said. One of those things are cooperative efforts between different governmental entities in the county. “The Riverview rebuild, for example. A substantial amount of the funding is coming from the state and a cooperative agreement between the city and the county. To get things accomplished, you have to cross jurisdictional boundaries. I see the advantage of working with our neighbors, the commissioners and the Tribes in a cooperative manner to accomplish something whereas to try to do it on your own it wouldn’t get done.”
Baker said he thinks a joint powers task force to investigate more entities supporting the operation of Riverton Regional Airport makes sense. A former Airport Board member, he said airport projects are so huge that the matching funds required by the city impacts the municipal budget so police are not hired, sanitation workers are not hired, as an example. “Those matching funds, even though only 2 percent of a project’s cost, consume the available funds. Those are the issues that confound local government,” he concluded.