Commissioners plan to restructure fair leadership

Will likely revert to having separate position in fair office

Posted 3/10/22

Following a Monday staffing shakeup, Park County commissioners will soon determine how they’ll split up the duties of running the annual fair.

“We will all be working together until we …

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Commissioners plan to restructure fair leadership

Will likely revert to having separate position in fair office


Following a Monday staffing shakeup, Park County commissioners will soon determine how they’ll split up the duties of running the annual fair.

“We will all be working together until we have a plan,” Commission Chair Dossie Overfield assured the Park County Fair Advisory Board Tuesday night, adding, “We’re not going to leave you hanging. We’re going to get done what we need to get done.”

The county’s buildings and grounds superintendent, Mike Garza, oversaw the fair and other events in recent years as part of a dual role, but his tenure ended Monday morning; Garza said the commissioners — who gave him the option of either resigning or being terminated — didn’t give a reason for their decision.

Garza took on the fair-related duties as part of an effort to resolve confusion over which fairgrounds duties should be handled by the events department and which should be handled by the buildings and grounds department. But he saw a continued gray area about the fair board’s role in the process and, days before he was visited by commissioners, he’d made critical comments about the board and its members.

Overfield said the commission intends to go back to separating the events-related duties from the buildings and grounds superintendent’s position, though the details have yet to be finalized.

“Give us a little bit of time, after [Monday], and we’ll figure out where we’re gonna go from there,” she told the board.

Currently, the fair office has only one employee, Darcy Street, but Overfield said the commission will likely go back to having two people working in the office, saying there’s “plenty of work.”

Street’s predecessor had taken a leading role in organizing the fair until June, when Garza fired her. The termination so close to July’s fair created issues, and raised tension between the board members and Garza, who wanted the volunteers to help with some of the duties the staffer had performed.

Considering it lost a key employee right before the 2021 fair, Commissioner Scott Mangold said the county did a good job with the event. However, Mangold also said there were a number of problems with ticket sales, including a shortage of personnel to work the booths and a lack of adequate security measures for handling the money.

“I think that we put on a good face last year; the public didn’t see a lot of what was going on in the background and they seemed to be pretty well satisfied with it,” Mangold said “We got that part taken care of, put on a little show for them, but as far as it running smoothly, I think there’s some work that needs to be done.”

One of board member Andrea Earhart’s questions on Tuesday was, “are we going to have somebody who can create this fair for us? Because that’s something that needs to happen sooner rather than later.”

Overfield assured the board that, “We’ll get you as much help as we can get you.”

The commissioner also said it was important for the board to understand that Street “can’t always jump at everything if we’ve got her doing buildings and trying to put up chairs at the same time that she’s getting emails to … get the fair book out.”

She asked for the board to give Street as much lead time for requests as possible, with everybody helping everyone else.

Tuesday’s meeting was similar to others that have been held in recent years in the wake of fair staff shakeups. There have been multiple firings and resignations as county commissioners have struggled to find the right person and the best way to manage the fair and fairgrounds — including difficulties in pinning down the role of a fair board.

On Feb. 28, the Cody Enterprise wrote about the various changes the fair has undergone through the years, writing that “for those managing the fair one consistent has been inconsistent leadership.”

It included a recap of the commissioners’ 2015 decision to dissolve the Park County Fair Board — which oversaw the entire fairgrounds and controlled the fair director — and replace it with the Park County Fair Advisory Board; its role is generally limited to planning the weeklong fair and working with commission-directed staff.

The Wyoming Supreme Court later ruled that commissioners can’t dissolve fair boards, but more than six years after Park County did away with its board, the Wyoming Legislature is on the verge of passing a bill that would effectively bless their decision. Senate File 27 would give commissioners the authority to eliminate any boards they create.

The Enterprise story noted the bill, and discussed the current situation in Park County; it included complaints from Garza about the gray area surrounding the advisory board’s role in managing the fair.

“I don’t like being told what to do, especially by a volunteer board member that doesn’t want to do anything,” he told the paper. Garza said the board should meet more than once a month and also accused the members of “using taxpayer money just to use taxpayer money.”

Linda (Nielsen) Metzer — who was among three board members who resigned amid the 2015 restructuring — told the Enterprise that, “Me and the former board members just laugh now because we always knew this was coming.”

The published comments caught the current fair advisory board members off guard.

“I don’t know where that came from,” board member Christy Muecke said at Tuesday’s meeting, with fellow member Sara Skalsky saying she “kind of felt blindsided by that article.”

Fred Bronnenberg, who recently joined the board, said he didn’t understand “why the press is reporting on some of that stuff.”

“Because it seems to me it’s dredging up stuff from the past that isn’t going on currently, so that’s what caught me off guard,” Bronnenberg said, adding, “I think it sets a bad precedent, because we’re working through things. … There’s a commitment to get this pulled together.”

In a Wednesday interview, Overfield said she didn’t expect any changes to the structure of the advisory board.

“I don’t think anybody’s got any beef with what they’re getting done,” she said.