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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Meeting Expectations

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Jim Magagna

As we embrace the challenges and opportunities 2023 will bring, there are lessons to be learned from the year that has just departed. 

One vision I held at the beginning of 2022 was seeing a return to the “old normal,” which had defined my approach to personal and professional relationships prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This normal was underwritten by the close personal contacts I was able to foster, both with those whom I found common ground as well as those with whom I often disagreed.

Recently, I have seen several writers refer to “neighbor” as a verb. The term does not just describe those in physical proximity. To “neighbor” is to build relationships with others, to truly care about their well-being and to lend a helping hand when needed. 

Wyoming farmers and ranchers have historically excelled in “neighboring.”

Today, outside of our agricultural production community, I experience a “new normal” on a daily basis. Participation in countless meetings which, under the “old normal” would have necessitated travel across Wyoming, are now scheduled virtually with few, if any, of the participants coming together. 

The critical social content of in-person meetings is lacking. Existing relationships are stressed, and new ones are not built. 

Many point to the convenience and cost-savings of virtual participation. This perspective overlooks both the added progress on the meeting topics and the unanticipated opportunities which often arise from personal contact. 

In Wyoming, this “new normal” has permeated both the private sector and the state government. As we enter the 2023 Legislative Session, I reflect on the past eight months of interim committee meetings. The leadership has required most all meetings include a virtual component for the public, and at times, for committee members. 

There are, from my perspective, at least two negative outcomes. 

First, many small Wyoming communities that relished the occasional visit by legislative committees no longer have this opportunity because they lack virtual meeting technology.

Second, those legislators, lobbyists and other citizens who are present are totally unaware of who may intend to testify until that person suddenly shows up on screen. 

Once again, the opportunity for personal interaction between legislators or lobbyists and virtual participants is lacking. I am proud to report all testimony offered by the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association during the 2022 interim has been in person. 

While legislators and most lobbyists are now in Cheyenne for the 40-day session, disruptions caused by virtual participation will continue. The valuable experience for citizens who show up at the Capitol to participate in the legislative process will be diminished. 

While the decline in the “old normal” was furthered by virtual meetings, it evolved through several other changes over the past two decades. 

The recently completed renovation of the State Capitol to include expansive meeting rooms and more private space for legislators and staff, while impressive, has significantly disrupted “neighboring” between legislators and others participating in the process.

Finally, as many longtime participants have observed, this decline began with the closing of the Hitching Post, as the de facto and home away from home for the vast majority of legislators and lobbyists. 

Breakfasts in the restaurant, spouses who socialized daily, pets who visited each other’s rooms uninvited and evenings in the bar, built relationships surviving even the strong disagreements in the Capitol. 

Yes, the “old normal” has most likely been relegated to the memories of a few of us and to history books. Our challenge in 2023 and beyond is not to restore the “old normal,” but rather to transform the same types of relationships based on respect and cooperation. 

Let us restore “neighboring” as the Wyoming way.

Jim Magagna is the executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. He can be reached at 307-634-3942. This column was originally published in CowCountry Magazine.

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