County Commissioner Candidates lay groundwork as 2020 Primary Election nears


Wyo4News Staff, [email protected]

ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING (July 30, 2020) — The Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce hosted their second Virtual Meet & Greet via Zoom on Thursday, July 30, and Sweetwater County Commissioner Candidates for the 2020 Primary Election had a chance to lay the groundwork for their run at the two seats that will be open for the 2020 General Election. Each candidate had a chance to talk about themselves and answer numerous questions regarding the future of Sweetwater County.

Candidates who participated were current Republican Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld, Democrat Joe M. Barbuto, Republican Mary E. Thoman, and Democrat Dave Gray. Republican candidates Mark Peterson and current Commissioner Wally Johnson did not participate. Two candidates from each party will qualify for the 2020 General Election, meaning Barbuto and Gray will be running in November for the Democratic Party.

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Many hard-hitting questions were asked to the candidates, including the impact of COVID-19, economic diversity, the number one issue Sweetwater County faces, working with cities and towns, reducing costs, and how the Wyoming State Legislature can help Sweetwater County.

With COVID-19 being a continually discussed topic, Barbuto and Gray emphasized the importance of following the recommendations given by Dr. Jean A. Stachon, Sweetwater County Public Health Director. Gray talked about his support of businesses using face coverings. Schoenfeld commended the public for how they have dealt with COVID-19, and stressed the importance of keeping services available. Thoman gave her thoughts and did not want to implement more regulations connected to the virus.

Economic diversity was the next topic of discussion. Schoenfeld discussed the involvement of the Sweetwater Economic Development Coalition (SEDC) and helping with the economy regarding retail, distribution, and manufacturing. Thoman talked about utilizing the national resources from the mines, and Gray pushed for bringing firearms businesses to Sweetwater County. Barbuto agreed with Schoenfeld about the importance of the involvement of the SEDC in the local economy.

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Regarding the number one issue Sweetwater County is facing, all the candidates agreed the economy is the most important to address. Barbuto talked about making plans and not aborting them in the future, while Schoenfeld continued to show her support for the SEDC. Gray and Thoman agreed rebuilding the economy will take time, with both mentioning it could take four years.

Working with cities and towns in Sweetwater County was the next topic, and Barbuto continued with his pattern of good communication for all the entities. Schoenfeld, originally from Farson, gave her thoughts on the importance of incorporating smaller areas in decision making, including Superior. Thoman also wants the support of small communities from Sweetwater County. Gray talked about the possibility of eliminating duplicate organizations if needed, such as Sweetwater County Fire District #1 and the Sweetwater County Fire Department, but wants to keep the police the way it currently is.

Reducing costs was another hot topic with the downturn of the economy due to COVID-19, and both Gray and Schoenfeld agreed about the possibility of getting rid of duplicative services, but did not specify what they would target if necessary. Thoman wants Sweetwater County to work with other counties to help find solutions, while Barbuto stressed the importance of his previous work dealing with state budgets, which was around $3 billion dollars. Barbuto continued with the importance of doing research and making well thought out decisions.

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Each candidate expressed their concern for Sweetwater County and making sure the Wyoming State Legislature puts forth the effort to help Sweetwater County. Thoman focused on the protection of the mines, while Barbuto wants to make sure the Legislature is aware of what Sweetwater County is trying to accomplish when discussions take place. Schoenfeld wants open communication with the Legislature and feel the needs of each county need to be individualized. Gray asked for help from the Legislature, as Sweetwater County has taken a bigger hit than other areas.

The mental health of young residents within Sweetwater County was examined, and the focus of each candidate was to help improve the lives of the kids and young adults of Sweetwater County.

The Occidental land purchase was discussed and Schoenfeld felt it was a no brainer to purchase the land, Barbuto wanted more transparency with a big decision like that, Thoman said it was a great opportunity, and Gray supported the purchase.

The meeting concluded with each candidate giving their final thoughts and asking for the public’s vote in the 2020 Primary Election.

Watch the Virtual Meet & Greet here.

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