Born in North Dakota, I moved with my family to Gillette when I was six years old. My grandfather ran an oilfield consulting business there for a time before moving back to North Dakota, and my stepfather works at the Dry Fork Power Station.
I graduated as one of the salutatorians at Campbell County High School, and attended the University of Wyoming on a full-ride scholarship for a year. I then moved back to Gillette and worked as a rig hand for a summer.
The course of my life change that winter, when I launched off a tabletop jump while night skiing at Deer Mountain ski area in the Black Hills. “I landed on my butt and had a burst fracture in my spine, and I broke my right femur in half”. The bone fragments bruised my spinal cord. I lost all feeling below my waist, which I partially regained through intensive rehab. “I was able to learn how to hobble around on crutches” .
As I recovered from my injury, I met and married my wife, and became active in my church. “As far as knowing God and knowing Christ, that certainly blossomed after the fact”.
In Gillette, I have served on the Beautification Committee for three years, and ran unsuccessfully for city council before winning election to the state Legislature. On the state level, I served on the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife, and Cultural Resources Committee, but I have interests in a variety of issues.
I favor the transfer of federal lands to the state. Campbell County produces about 40 percent of the nation’s coal, but Wyoming receives only 48 percent of the Federal Mineral Royalties from that production with the rest going to the U.S Treasury.
I believes state control of the lands could provide more revenue for schools and local government, and enough money to manage the property.
I oppose the Common Core, and believe parents should have the right to opt their kids out of state testing. I also favor eliminating gun-free zones in public places such as schools. “I don’t think those do anything but disarm people trying to defend themselves”.
On social issues, I would like to outlaw abortions after the fetus can feel pain, and ban the sale of baby body parts for research. I favor the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and oppose adding LGBT residents to the list of groups covered by non-discrimination laws.
Wyoming should not modify its law defining marriage to conform with the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. “It is a states’ rights issue and I don’t believe the court has the right to do it”.
“Our government in Wyoming has to comply with the Supreme Court [and issue same-sex marriage licenses], but I would be opposed to changing our state statutes”. “I think we should leave them as they are, and they accurately reflect the will of the people. By and large our state believes marriage is between one man and one woman, and I think the statutes should reflect that despite the Supreme Court ruling.”
Wyoming’s opposition to same-sex marriage has recently shifted. Fifty-five percent of Wyoming residents opposed same-sex marriage in 2012, but a 2014 poll by the University of Wyoming showed 39 percent now oppose it, while 53 support it. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
It is humbling to be in the Legislature. “As I often say at church or elsewhere, I am a nothing and a nobody”. “I very much believe that.” In my view lawmakers shouldn’t be seen as aristocrats or a noble class, but as servants.
At the same time, I was still impressed when I attended my first legislative reception in Cheyenne and talked one-on-one with the Secretary of State and the Auditor. “They are regular folks just like I am, but it was kind of surreal”. “It’s like, ‘Wow, I am really here.’”