(Fremont County, WY) – The Fremont County District 1 Commissioner seat is up for election this year and incumbent Republican Clarence Thomas is running for his second full term.
Thomas, who has filled the seat since 2016, shared that one of the reasons he decided to run was because there needed to be a collaboration between the Tribes and the Fremont County government.
He wants to see that work continue to grow, which is why he is seeking re-election.
“I have in the past, now and in the future always depended on the voice of my constituents within Fremont County and always have responded and will always make decisions based upon the issue of what their need is. My leadership is servant leadership and in that, I am in the service of those who have elected me.”
The Wind River Reservation is unique in the U.S., Thomas explained, because it has not just Tribal land but deeded land also, which makes the constituents not only Tribal Members but non-Tribal Members.
“You have to be able to collaborate with everyone and understand their needs as a whole. I’ve been able to do that,” he said.
Issues the Tribes and Fremont County government continue to work together on include roads, solid waste, ambulance service, and a fire hall.
Thomas, a disabled Veteran and former BIA law enforcement officer, is the liaison for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and understands the issues of Veterans’ needs in the County.
Healthcare and Title 25 are other top priorities for Thomas and the Commissioners.
During his tenure, the biggest challenge for the Commissioners has been the COVID pandemic, he noted.
“Everything kind of just stopped and it was hard to move people forward because there was so much going on. The numbers were increasing, we had to figure out what to do. Those were very difficult times and really stressful. But we were able to come together in our management in that we were able to, during that time, keep our budget to a point that we were able to make it through those times. And we were able to do all of the paperwork necessary to require funding that will help us get through those times. That wasn’t easy. That took a lot of effort.”
Now, the focus has become economic development, which takes collaboration and working with multiple entities including state and federal.
“It’s an issue of collaboration and networking. And being able to know where the County is at right now. You know, that takes a lot of time. A lot of investment and a lot of research. It’s not just coming to the table every Tuesday and saying, ‘well, I’m gonna make decisions.’ You have to know how to make those decisions. And I think I’ve made those decisions. Sometimes I went against my own peers on the Board on some things when I would say ‘no.’
“When it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, it’s about taking the time to fully understand the community, the council and understand all of the policies, all the departments and what they do and how they work.”
Stabilization of ambulance care is one of the biggest issues facing the County, Thomas noted.
“Not just the issue of financial, but the issue of service. How do we get to that point where we feel that everything’s flowing correctly for our constituents for Fremont County, that they feel that they have good ambulance service? We still have to get there.”
Another issue facing the County, according to Thomas, is illegal dumping.
“We have a lot of illegal dumping going on. We have to really get to the point that we meet together, and it’s not just the Tribes and the County but the Solid Waste Board, and also law enforcement. I’m trying to see how we can gain some control over the illegal dumping, which seems to have started to occur during COVID, and we’re dealing with it now. That can really affect the environment. It really can affect a lot of things.”
The budget is also another issue and making efforts and decisions now that will impact it 5-10 years down the road.
“We really need to be appropriate in our decisions on how we’re looking at budgeting.”
Thomas applies his education to budgeting as well.
“Part of that business leadership is the issue of understanding how not just organizational structures work, but how budgets work within those organizational structures and most of what I bring when we’re talking about our budget is how departments are working. Their funding, and their budgets based upon how their organizational structure is and how they’re moving forward. And then how they can adjust those budgets to work in the future.”
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