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August 23, 2012 8:34 am

Livingston, Hall win Park County Commission race

Written by CJ Baker

Powell support not enough for Wetzel and Laursen

North Fork outfitter Lee Livingston and incumbent Bucky Hall emerged as the winners in Tuesday’s Republican primary, coming out at the top of a seven-man race.

Livingston, who received 2,755 votes to lead the field, and Hall, who garnered 2,169 votes, each polled very strongly in western Park County.

 

 

That support propelled the two men to victory, despite a strong showing in eastern Park County by Powell City Councilman John Wetzel and Heart Mountain Irrigation District Manager Dan Laursen; Wetzel and Laursen finished first and second in the Powell area, but had a tougher time in Cody. They finished third and fourth overall — Wetzel with 1,701 votes, Laursen with 1,492.

Alex Gisoldi and Greg Gaspers effectively finished in a tie for fifth, with Gisoldi receiving 1,103 votes to edge Gaspers by two.

Bob Stevens finished further back, with 471 votes. Ron Reed, who withdrew from the race too late to have his name taken off the ballot, received 367 votes.

Barring a write-in or independent challenge, Livingston and Hall will be unopposed in the general election.

Livingston took 18 of the 29 Park County precincts.

“I had a pretty good feeling that I had a broad base of support out there, but I was very pleased when I saw how broad it was,” Livingston said in a Wednesday interview. He said the most frequent comment he received while campaigning was “they appreciated the fact that I made myself available.”

In the Powell area, Livingston finished fourth with about 14 percent of the vote versus 24.6 percent overall.

“The one big mistake I think I made in the campaign was not realizing — because this is the first time I’ve ever done this — how much time campaigning takes, and Powell was my challenge issue going into this,” he said. “As far as campaigning, I wasn’t able to spend as much time over there as I wanted to, but if elected in November, I plan on being a Park County Commissioner and making myself as accessible as possible over in Powell.”

Livingston added that he wants to be accessible to everyone in the county. He’s been complimentary of the current board of commissioners and said there were several individuals in the race who would have done a good job as commissioners.

Livingston has some obligations with his outfitting business this fall, but he’ll be attending as many commission and county-related meetings as he can. His decks are cleared beginning in January, when he’d take office.

“Before I threw my hat in the ring, I made sure my schedule would be clear enough to do the job if elected,” he said.

Hall said he was happy to have been advanced toward a third term on the commission.

“I figured I’d finish in the top three, I was just hoping I’d finish in the top two,” he said with a laugh, adding that there were three or four candidates that he would have felt comfortable voting for.

“I’m happy that the Republican voters decided to keep me in for a third term, and I probably have a fair amount of acquaintances and friends who quote ‘crossed the aisle’ for me, and I appreciate that,” Hall said. He also said he appreciated the support he got in Meeteetse — winning one of his two precincts there — after going door-to-door.

The Cody foundry owner finished third in the Powell area, picking up about 15.3 percent of the vote versus 19.4 percent overall. Hall said he thinks there’s a misconception among Powell area residents that they aren’t being represented because there’s no one on the board from Powell outside of Heart Mountain farmer Tim French. Hall noted that when French, Bill Brewer and Dave Burke were on the board two years ago, there were three Powell High School graduates on the commission, and he downplayed the significance of being a commissioner from a certain area.

“I will continue to represent all of Park County, even though I live in downtown Cody,” Hall said.

Wetzel received strong backing in Powell, winning all five city of Powell precincts and finishing second in four precincts around Powell. He took in more than 25 percent of the vote in the eastern part of the county, but received only about 8.7 percent in the west.

“It was a little disappointing, but I’m certainly grateful for all the people that voted for me and (I’m) a little understanding of it all — I didn’t campaign as hard as I probably should,” Wetzel said. Though he’s made a full recovery from a stroke he suffered in late July, he said the incident made it hard to get campaign energy back up for a push in Cody.

“When I had kind of planned on firing up and doing more was when I was spending a little too much time in the healthcare system,” he said. “It’s unfortunate; I don’t know if it’s just one of those things that wasn’t meant to be or what.”

If Powell voters want a Powell representative, Wetzel said, candidates are going to have figure out how to campaign in Cody or the voters will have to consider not voting for any Cody candidates to avoid watering down their votes.

“I do feel we need some representation from Powell, and that’s not to say these guys are doing a bad job,” Wetzel said. But if there was a commissioner from Powell, “I think everybody would complain less; they would feel like they had a voice.”

That, he added, wasn’t to take away from Hall or Livingston.

“I think Lee and Bucky will do a good job. I’m certainly not upset,” Wetzel said, extending congratulations.

Wetzel said he’s not going to dwell on the loss too much and will look at running again in 2014.

“It was a good experience,” he said.

Laursen polled second in Powell, winning four rural Powell precincts and finishing second in seven others, including one near Meeteetse. He was pleased with the Powell results, but disappointed overall.

“You spend all that money and you spend all that time and, yeah, it’s kind of a bummer,” he said.

While picking up about 24.8 percent of the vote in the Powell area, Laursen drew only about 5.8 percent in Cody and the North and South Forks.

“The Cody crowd’s tough. I probably needed to beat the bush more over here (in Cody),” said Laursen, adding that the low voter turnout didn’t help.

“It’s tough to get a Powell guy in there. Not that the other guys don’t do a good job, but it’d be nice to get a Powell guy in,” he said.

Similar to Wetzel, Laursen said that if Powell residents really want to put a Powell representative on the commission, “they’ve got to make sure they vote all Powell through.”

Laursen also extended congratulations to Livingston and Hall.

“I think they’ll do fine,” he said. “Everybody was going to do OK.”

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