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WGA

January 2019 brought five new governors to the western United States, and with the new governors, five retiring men and women vacated their seats at the beginning of the year.

The 2018 Western Governors’ Association (WGA) Conference concluded in Hawaii in mid-December 2018 with a panel discussion from five governors ending their terms in 2018. Govs. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Matt Mead, Dennis Daugaard, Brian Sandoval and Mary Fallin shared their thoughts after serving as governors of the states of Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada and Oklahoma, respectively. 

“Western governors are easily the most pragmatic, collegial, effective group of governors for whom I have had the honor and privilege to work,” said Jim Ogsbury, Western Governors’ Association executive director. “I respect and admire the governors because of their leadership.” 

Ogsbury noted the compassion and thoughtfulness of western governors have provided a strong, stable source of leadership for the U.S. over the past several years. 

Strong network

“Over the last eight years, so many have become friends,” Mead said. 

Mead was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. He served as chairman of WGA in 2015.

“When I was first running for office, I’d never run for office before. The night of the election, I was with my family, including my dad,” he recounted. 

Mead described his father as a “crusty rancher” who was suspicious of lawyers and politicians. 

“After the vote came in and it was clear I was going to win on primary night, he turned to me and said, ‘Matt, I don’t know how you’re going to get out of this now,’” Meadlaughed.

Mead’s wife Carol joked in November 2018, “This fall, we’re going to be empty nesters, and second, Matt’s going to be unemployed. Will somebody please find Matt a job?”

Someone in the crowd later asked Carol what Meads qualifications were. 

“To my dad’s skepticism about politicians and question of qualifications, I would say this. For eight years, I’ve had the privilege of working around a dedicated group of individuals who lead their state – and in many cases, their country – in a remarkable way,” Mead said. “I would put on my resume that I have the experience of learning from great Americans - not just other governors but staff members, too.” 

“Being governor is nothing if it’s not a learning experience,” he continued. “And it is a learning experience, not just for learning the subject matter but learning about life and what is important, being guided by fellow governors who inspire with their will to do good work of the people of their states.”

Organization’s value

Mead said WGA is the nation’s best political organization, noting that Republicans and Democrats can have disagreements individually, but together, they celebrate the value of the West.

“The value of WGA goes further than the policy work. I see in this country the challenge and vitriol in politics that is getting worse rather than getting better,” Mead emphasized. 

“The nature of our Republic, our Democracy requires good women and men to step up and serve.At some point, when it looks like a completely negative experience, who will step up? WGA is not just about the particular issues. It’s the model of how our democracy should work,” he continued. “We need to spread this example across the country. The example of WGA should inspire those across the country.”

As retiring western governors “ride off into the sunset,” Mead said, “I see many great days ahead for western governors and WGA.” 

“The last eight years has been one hell of a ride,” he commented. “When we think about the future of WGA, though, I know it is in great hands.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..