Mayoral Candidate: Chris Hulme

(Lander, WY) – County 10 contacted all the mayoral candidates across the County to ask them a few questions.

Lander Councilman Chris Hulme is running for Lander mayor. He was born and raised in Lander and works at their family-owned business, Rocky Mountain Pre-Mix/Pioneer Concrete Pumping.

Below is a Q&A transcript of our interview, which has been edited for clarity and length.

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County 10: What prompted you to run for mayor?
Chris Hulme:
I’d always thought about elected office when I was younger. I made a bet with my son when he was like 13 that within two years I would be in an elected office. And at that time, it never was really firm on my radar, but it was always an idea. My grandparents were always very service-minded, very volunteer-oriented, things like that. And so, as I got older, I started thinking, maybe I could be of service somewhere. And about that same time is when I joined the committee to fundraise for the skatepark. So we went through that process for like a year and a half – fundraising, designing, and building. That was the first time I really found a desire to work within a committee of individuals and find a common goal and find how to work together. So that experience kind of started me years later, to have community members coming to me and saying, hey, we think maybe you would enjoy or be of benefit to the community in an elected office, such as school board, city council, things like that. And so, after I looked more into that, and then I ran for council and won the election, as you get on the city council, the first thing I learned was how your hands are tied by so many other levels of government. And so it became apparent early on that if I’m going to continue running for offices, I felt you needed to move through the ranks of offices to continue working and being beneficial and accomplishing the things that you want to do because like the State. I looked at State House for the longest time that’s something where I think I’d like to be. Maybe I could tailor my lifestyle and my work to where I could be gone in the winter for the session and then do meetings and basically juggle the two – employment and that, because you make literally nothing to be a representative. And so, I was leaning more towards that for the longest time. But then, as this term was coming closer to an end, I just started thinking I want the time I put in to be efficient. I want to do the most good and not just draw things out to where I need to be an elected official for 30 years. My thinking is more like, well, I think I’ve been a relatively efficient councilman. As in I put in the work, I’m very diligent on my research and things of that nature. But to go a step further in city government with as much care while I feel like I have the energy for it. I feel like I’m relatively determined. I’m diligent in my work, and I don’t want, and I don’t think that people should have to do this for 15 years and build up to the point where you could be mayor. If I feel capable now and I have community support for it. Then why not now? And that’s kind of what I told Monte before I decided to change my filing. I was like, this is nothing about you. This is because, at this point in my life, I feel like I could be an efficient mayor. I can execute things in that office well instead of waiting four more years. I’m just gonna run now while I think I’m relevant. I’m always looking to my elders for stories and learning the history of the community here and how it got to be the way it is. I have a great context right now of how we got to where we are, where a lot of the community wants to go, and kind of how we keep supporting what we have here in the future. I kind of feel like if I wait until I’m 50-60 plus years old, I feel like I can potentially have a disconnect at that point in time to where then I’m over here, and it’s hard to see all these other things. Whereas right now, I’m kind of in the middle of it all. And like I say, I’m always looking to my elders for guidance, but I’m also saying hey, but these folks over here need this. And in order for you to get the future you want in this community, we also have to take care of these kids over here, the professional generation, and in the service industry and things like that. So right now, it just feels like I’m at a good common ground between the various generations that we have here in town. And I think that would help me to kind of accommodate the community as a whole without seeing one perspective more strongly than another. I’m pretty good at listening. My grandparents have now passed, but all these different individuals, I’m always seeking out information on how we got to where we are and then how to apply that.

C10: What changes would you like to see in Lander?
CH:
I think that what we need to do in Lander is acknowledge what it is that hasn’t been working or just acknowledge that right now we have, like everywhere else, we have housing issues, we have wage issues, we have just community cohesive issues. And I think all of this is related to each other. In just the way individuals speak about each other and respect each other as individuals. I think that this community and a lot of communities come together at times like floods. You ignore everything you think about someone when their house is being flooded; you just go and help. But when there’s not an emergency like that, we kind of step back from ourselves and look at our communities, and we put everybody in boxes, and we judge everybody, and that makes our community weaker. So I guess one thing I would like just as a cultural change is like acknowledging that we have issues within our community and that we don’t always treat everyone with respect and being accountable when you’re kind of put on the spot for that. And if we can acknowledge it and be accountable for it, then we will see that. These individuals like I’m from Ward 1. Ward 1 has probably 80% of the mobile homes in the city of Lander. A lot of them have landlords that rent out a mobile home for $1,100 a month that has water coming through the roof and broken windows. The reason you can do that is because there is not enough housing in Lander. The reason there’s not enough housing in Lander is partially because of zoning and codes that the city has in place. That disallows a lot of housing options. So if we can help alleviate and accommodate some of these individuals and give them options on different housing, that possibly becomes more affordable because there are more homes in town, not because I’m saying we want subsidized housing necessarily, but just to say, the demand decides the price. So if the demand is equal to the number of houses, then the price comes down, a percentage or two, and then you can afford to live in a better home. If you can afford to live in a better home, or you’re not worried about water coming through the roof and the heat coming on. You have the ability and the confidence to go out in the world and say, I deserve this. I will work hard for this. I will do these things because my community values me, and my landlord values me. If we don’t create that value across the board in town, then we’re gonna continue to have segments of the population that don’t feel heard and don’t feel cared about. And those are the individuals that I really believe hold the town up. Those are the individuals that make the coffee. Those are the individuals that are the janitors at the school. Those are the individuals that do all the stuff that makes Lander attractive to retirees, attractive to tourists, and attractive to the industries that make our town work. I just think I’d like to see a Lander where that population is acknowledged more, and we see what we can do to help them get a leg forward. It’s way more complex than just like city council and mayor and codes. It’s more the way we talk about each other. It’s more about building a culture of inclusiveness. It’s building a culture where you feel heard, I think right now our council is becoming more diverse than it has been in the past, which I think helps. You see people like you making decisions for the community. And that’s kind of what comes back to me is like to see someone like me sitting in the mayor’s chair in Lander. People are like, whoa, these things are accessible, and the person’s capable. So, the simple answer for change, we need to figure out how to help accommodate housing. I think there are some ways the city could do some housing projects, where we either combined with a builder or we just go on our own. This is something that has to happen here. If we don’t put up some other little pocket neighborhoods or apartment buildings or something that’s like a mixed-use apartment/office, if the city has to, I think the city could lead in that as well. If nobody else wants to step up to the plate because some individuals like to say, well, I want to leave up to private enterprise, but it’s like at some point a private enterprise isn’t doing anything about the housing issues, then the city needs to. You’re not stepping on the toes of someone who’s not trying to do it.

C10: What challenges do you foresee in making those changes?
CH:
There’s always gonna be hurdles to it. But if you as a leader in the community, as a mayor, as a council person, I think standing up for other individuals that don’t get stood up for I think it takes a little bit of time, but I think you will get somewhere and I think part of that has to do with proclamations and part of that has to do with housing talks. A fair number of individuals that say, oh, this rundown trailer park is just a bunch of, you know, hooligans and whatever, and they don’t deserve anything because they don’t take care of anything. But if you look at that and you’re like, okay, well, let’s look at their life and their opportunities. Let’s look at their parents’ lives and their parents’ opportunities. Let’s look at what you know, what these teachers did to them in school 20 years ago, and you see how we got to where we are. And so, I guess my approach to it is being inclusive of and celebrating members of our community that maybe haven’t always been celebrated. It will take 20 years to get to where the community needs it to flourish. The more you can have it out in the open and acknowledge the shortcomings that all of us have, I think at some point in time, it’s going to balance out to say, okay, you have shortcomings, I have shortcomings. I had a bad day, I was a jerk to you, but I was a jerk to you because I had a bad day, not because I’m racist or I’m homophobic, or I’m, you know, all the above. So, I’m part of inclusivity that’s culture building, and I understand that takes time, but having someone in an office of importance in a community setting that example and being firm with that example to say I’m just as interested in individual living in an overpriced mobile home park, as I am, let’s say to get myself in trouble, the realtor who is selling $2 million homes and lives in a $2 million home, like you guys are on the same level and I will acknowledge that out loud, I will say that into the microphone and to your face, because while that causes ripples, it also bolsters this person’s place in the community. So I think just having that example out there in the community kind of does the building on its own.

C10: What is the most pressing issue facing City Council this year?
CH:
Since 2018, when I was elected to represent the people, I have learned that many citizens have different issues which they believe are pressing, or of most importance.  Because I am representing all these people I do not see one issue as being more pressing than another.  This outlook requires that I approach all issues with the intention to be well informed, be willing/able to deliberate, and have the confidence to vote on an item with the betterment of the community in mind.  When all issues are treated this way the system can efficiently address these issues and then we move on.  The flood mitigation study is pressing, as is constructing a new water tank to replace older, failing tanks.  Discussing, and I believe passing, a non-discrimination resolution to show that all citizens are to be treated equally is pressing.  Evaluating staff pay/benefits to retain quality employees is pressing.  Continuing to build a public relations department is a pressing issue in Lander.  When you are operating a multi-million dollar municipal corporation, City of Lander, issues come up and are dealt with on a daily basis.  It is the process in which we address them that matters, not necessarily categorizing issues as most or least pressing for the city council. 

C10: What will you bring to the table as mayor?
CH:
As mayor, I think the biggest thing I would bring to it is the depth of the work I’m willing to do and stand behind it. When I got on the council, everybody told me it takes two years to be a council person. I was like, that’s atrocious. Because by four years, what good am I if I don’t know what I’m doing for two years, then I’m just trying to catch up, and then I have to go through another election? So I was like, no, I’m not doing this two-year plan, and not to say that everything I did or said in my first six months as a council person I would necessarily say now, but still, I dove in, and I’m gonna do as much as possible. My wife’s like, go to bed. Stop. You guys don’t need to talk about that anymore. And I’m like, no, I do because I have to vote on this. I have to vote as a representative of 1000s of people. And, I was like, oh, we’re gonna shave this down to a few months of just, you know. I read the whole codebook front to back. I read, you know, all sorts of stuff that was just like boring contracts and all kinds of stuff and other people are like, how do you read that? I’m like, that’s what I’m supposed to do. If you’re not reading it, I guess I have other questions for you. Because that’s what I knew walking in the door. This is people’s lives. This is the health and safety of the future of our community. And that’s not something to be taken lightly, but it’s also something that you have to stand up for. When it comes time to vote. And there’s been, in my term, a handful of things that have just wandered off because they were too controversial. I’m more of the type of person that’s like, okay, let’s take the controversy. Let’s flesh it out, and see if this is a good change for our community or an unnecessary change. Let’s work it through to the finish and vote. Determine weigh in on what it is and then move on because if you don’t do that, it just allows things to just fester and cause a general unease in the community, which then degrades the culture and respect that people have for each other. And so it’s likely that at least the way I’ve lived my life, the spark vision of mayor that I would have that drive and the ability to see things, all things, through to their completion. Whether it’s a vote, a project, or not doing the project. I just like to take things through to completion and then move on to the next thing. One of my goals for myself would be to carry myself in such a way as the mayor, to be educated, to stand up for the community, and to stand up for the future of the community. We have a good foundation built right now. To do a lot of good stuff. I’m not trying to do things differently than the current mayor or any other candidate. I would do it as myself. As an individual with history and family that has gone through booms and busts. And someone who’s learned the history of the town and someone who’s also gone out into the world for at least a short time to know there are other solutions out there. We don’t have to recreate everything we do.

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C10: What is one thing you wish people knew about Lander?
CH:
The one thing I wish for people to know is the history of this place, and its people, to better understand how it became the modern city it is. One such story, as told by my grandfather Bill Merryman, is about Lander in the 1970s when some of the workers from the US Steel mine were living in chicken coops that were converted to living quarters, because there just wasn’t enough housing for the influx of workers. Another would be about workers from this same mine bringing their tools and machinery off the mountain to volunteer their time to help build City Park into the gem that it is today. Some of the workers stayed and retired, others moved on to other mines, but either way, they invested in Lander while they were here for the benefit of future generations. The more history we know, the more I believe we will understand how important it is to participate in creating the future we all want to see.

C10: Is there anything else you wish to share?
CH:
I am perfectly comfortable holding accountable or changing the system of things that is not working. I also expect to be held accountable for what I have said I will do as mayor.

Additional questions and answers can be found here on the League of Women Voters Fremont County Primary Election Voter Guide.


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