Michelis take to the campaign trail
Fort Bridger — “Our love for the State of Wyoming,” states southwestern Wyoming rancher Ron Micheli when asked what prompted his decision to enter the Wyoming gubernatorial race.
Micheli seldom uses the word “I” when talking about the campaign, instead opting for “we” and “our.” As his wife Patty explains, “The whole family was involved in the decision, all of our eight children and their spouses.” If the Michelis are successful in their bid for Wyoming’s top elected position, it’s a quest that will take them 330 miles east from the family ranch they call home to Wyoming’s capitol city.
It’s a journey, however, that will land them squarely amidst what they see as an opportunity to ensure Wyoming’s future as the state we all know and love. “It’s our passion to try and give our children and grandchildren the same opportunities and experiences that we’ve been fortunate to have,” says Ron. “We’re fearful of the insanity coming out of Washington and that it’s challenging the very thing we love so much. We want to do what we can to keep the Wyoming we love so much.”
“I don’t, in any way, intend to impugn the efforts of our congressional delegation,” says Ron. “They’re doing everything they can. Congress as an institution, in my mind, is dysfunctional. The next line of defense has to be the states.”
While defense of the Tenth Amendment — reserving all powers not designated to the federal government as powers of the sovereign states— won’t come easy, Ron says, “Individual states are going to have to start pushing back. I don’t know if any one state can do that, but the states are going to have to rise up and push back on all of these mandates out of Washington.”
The list of grievances is large, and growing daily. It’s a discussion that spans from natural resources issues to healthcare reform to financial decisions.
“They are causing major challenges to the lifestyle we should enjoy in Wyoming,” says Ron. Listing the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and public land issue, he says, “They all originated in Washington, D.C.” Others, he says mentioning what’s commonly become known as “cap and trade,” are looming on the horizon.
Ron sees the challenges along the southern horizon of his home county where beetle killed trees have turned entire mountainsides orange. “The first thing we have to do is institutionalize the idea that natural management is no management,” he says. “Man can improve their environment. We have done it time and time again. To let those forests die before our eyes without any attempt, even if it’s an expensive attempt, is irresponsible.”
A similar philosophy, he says, applies to the Endangered Species Act. “The fact that we have, in Wyoming, species that have been declared endangered in other states, must mean that we’re doing something right. We have species here that are extinct in other states. Instead of being rewarded, we’re being punished.”
As a member of the Wyoming Legislature when the wolf debate reached its pre-introduction peak and as Director of Ag when the livestock and wildlife losses began, Ron says, “We need to make a tough stand, because no matter what stand you make it’s going to be challenged in court and we’re going to be asked to compromise to somewhere in between. You might as well start out tough. As far as I’m concerned, we should have started off tougher. Dual classification is defensible. We should just set our heals and say this is where we’re at and move ahead with the court case and see where it falls.”
Ron says, “The wolf issue is a classic example of the federal government dictating to the state what’s best for us.”
In a more general sense, he says, “I think the American people are looking for somebody to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ and turn this thing around. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but the American people, and I know the people of Wyoming, are saying it’s time.”
Ron brings broad-based experience to the race to be Wyoming’s next governor. He spent 16 years in the Wyoming Legislature and eight as Director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture as part of the Geringer administration. As Director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Ron says he learned the value in surrounding himself with good people. It’s a skill he hopes to transfer to the Wyoming Governor’s Office.
During his tenure in the Wyoming Legislature, Ron rose to leadership positions and served on several key committees including those dealing with minerals, revenue and agriculture. “It was a rollercoaster,” he says of state revenues during his service. Ron saw the state go from good financial times to the year 2000 when he was Director of Agriculture and they were “looking under rocks” for any funds they could find.
“I’ve had a number of people say, ‘Why do you want to be governor in a down economy?’” says Ron. “I see it as an opportunity to govern efficiently, to be conservative and prioritize what we truly need. It will be a challenge in cutting back and I think any group, by any examination, will agree we’re going to have to do that.” It’s his belief that such cutbacks can occur largely through attrition.
Coupled with his legislative and executive branch time, Ron offers private sector experience as a small businessman. Operating a family ranch includes many of the same challenges main street businessmen and women face — payroll, health insurance, taxes and meeting the rigorous daily demands of operating one’s own business. Ron operates the family ranch in conjunction with his brother Dale.
Life on the campaign trail is picking up pace and is sure to gain steam as the Aug. 17, 2010 Primary Election approaches. “We think it’s winnable,” says Ron. “In this state, it is still small enough, it’s incredible to think that 40,000 votes can get you through the primary.”
Colin Simpson, a legislator from Cody and the son of former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, is the only other candidate to have filed notice of an exploratory committee at this time. Governor Dave Freudenthal’s committee remains in place, but it is unclear whether or not he will seek a third term. Doing so would require a ruling on term limits by the Wyoming Supreme Court.
“We’re really hoping for a grassroots, volunteer campaign,” says Ron. Volunteers have already stepped forward in many communities and a state campaign team has been established.
“We’re not politicians,” says Ron. “We want people to know we’re just common folk. We hope that we can, in the campaign, express the values that are important to people in Wyoming – hard work and family values, and that we can be an extension of what Wyoming families look upon themselves as, nothing more and nothing less.”
Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.