The Park County Commission welcomed a new member and a new leader last week: Scott Mangold officially joined the five-member board, while Commissioner Lee Livingston was chosen as its chairman for …
The Park County Commission welcomed a new member and a new leader last week: Scott Mangold officially joined the five-member board, while Commissioner Lee Livingston was chosen as its chairman for 2021. Commissioner Dossie Overfield was selected as vice chair.
Both Mangold and Livingston started new, four-year terms at the Jan. 5 meeting. It’s the third term for Livingston and the first for Mangold, who Republican voters picked over Commissioner Jake Fulkerson in last year’s primary election.
“Hopefully there’s not a lot of eye rolls when I ask redundant questions,” Mangold quipped to his peers at the start of the meeting. While new to the commission, Mangold brings extensive experience in government, serving as both the mayor of Powell and as a city councilman.
As for Livingston, this will be his second stint as chairman of the commission, having previously held the position in 2017. The chairman sets the board’s agenda, runs its meetings and acts as the commission’s figurehead. The chairman generally does not vote unless there’s a tie between the other four commissioners.
Looking to 2021
Asked about the upcoming year, Livingston said his hope is “that it’s better than 2020.”
Alongside issues related to COVID-19, concern about the county’s budget dominated the board’s discussions last year; commissioners wound up drawing funds from the county’s savings account to balance the 2020-21 budget.
As commissioners put together the next budget, which starts in July, Livingston thinks it will turn out OK.
“I think we’ve made quite a few cuts, we’ve got things rolling along pretty good,” he said. “And depending upon how the CARES [Act] funding shakes out, we could be sitting pretty good.”
As of last month, the county had received more than $1.76 million from the state’s share of the federal COVID relief.
However, Livingston is concerned about what could be on the horizon for the 2022-23 fiscal year. He also expects the county to receive less funding from the State of Wyoming.
“The forecast for Wyoming is not all that rosy,” he said.
Mineral production dropped significantly in 2020, which will significantly impact tax collections across the state and in Park County. Livingston also noted that, in November, county voters rejected a proposed 1% sales tax increase that would have boosted revenue to local governments.
“I’m not being doom and gloom or being the [jerk], but when folks had 1 cent in front of them, and they decided they didn’t want it, that means that they might have to start getting hold of us and letting us know what they want to see cut,” he said. “Not necessarily this year, but possibly next year we might be having to face some pretty major cuts.”
When county officials take their oaths of office, the ceremony is typically held in the Park County District Courtroom. However, because of COVID-19 precautions, District Court Judge Bill Simpson administered the oaths by video last week. While Simpson sat in the effectively empty courtroom, the commissioners swore to support, obey and defend the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions two floors below, in a basement room temporarily serving as the commission’s meeting place.
It was among the continuing reminders of the pandemic that disrupted lives, businesses and governments in 2020.
Livingston made a point of praising the work of outgoing Commission Chairman Joe Tilden, saying he “hung in there and took this commission and this county through a really, really tough year.”
Commissioner Lloyd Thiel echoed that praise, saying Tilden did “a hell of a job” with the budget, COVID and everything else.
“I have a whole nother respect for you,” Thiel said.
Amid the pandemic, commissioners began broadcasting a live video stream of their proceedings. Currently, the footage is only available on a YouTube livestream and is not made available for on-demand viewing.
Commissioners held an executive session with Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric last week, in which they discussed, among other things, whether to record and archive the meetings.
“There’s some legal questions on what we have to retain and how we retain it and the ramifications if we don’t retain it,” Livingston explained in an interview.
Pressed on why that discussion would be held behind closed doors, “all I can say is, it’s concerning potential litigation,” he said.
The new chairman said the board will eventually hold a public discussion on the subject.