After the Wyoming Legislature rejected a proposal to name a stretch of highway after the late Sen. Hank Coe, a pair of local leaders are suggesting the Yellowstone Regional Airport terminal be named …
After the Wyoming Legislature rejected a proposal to name a stretch of highway after the late Sen. Hank Coe, a pair of local leaders are suggesting the Yellowstone Regional Airport terminal be named in his honor.
Park County Commission Chairman Lee Livingston and Cody Mayor Matt Hall proposed the idea at an April 14 airport meeting, and board members are set to consider it next month.
“Hank ... was about air service to Cody, he was about air service to this county,” Livingston said of Coe. “And we just thought that [naming the terminal in his honor] might be a gesture for all the good stuff he did for this community.”
Though he was best known as a lawmaker — representing Park County in the Senate for 32 years — Coe also served as a county commissioner, a volunteer firefighter and as an advocate for commercial air service to Wyoming, among other roles. In January, just days before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer, a long line of the state’s top political figures paid tribute to Coe and his record of public service.
The Legislature appeared to be on the verge of naming a portion of Wyo. Highway 120 in recognition of the Cody Republican. A proposal to create the Hank Coe Leadership Highway around Cody passed the House overwhelmingly — 54-6 — and drew initial support in the Senate.
“This sure feels like a simple step to honor one of Wyoming’s greatest statesmen,” Wyoming Business Alliance President Cindy DeLancey told a Senate committee last month, describing Coe as “a champion for so many wonderful things business-related in Wyoming.”
Chris Brown offered similar praise on behalf of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition.
“We feel that this is a fitting tribute to a man who spent many years of his life not just championing our industry, but serving our great state,” Brown said.
The director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Luke Reiner, had also lent his support to the Hank Coe Leadership Highway.
“Certainly a man that we all respected and admired,” Reiner said, “and this is very appropriate.”
Mayor Hall and Livingston testified in support as well.
“I know not everyone agreed with him,” Hall said of Coe, “but by God, everyone respected him.”
Following the supportive testimony, House Bill 135 breezed through the transportation committee unanimously on March 17 — and there were rumblings then that some of the Senate’s leaders might sign on as co-sponsors. But after some delays, the bill came to an abrupt halt on its third and final reading April 2.
Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, who is a Powell native, was the only lawmaker to speak, giving what he called a “difficult” speech against the legislation.
“I have an ultimate amount of respect for the man,” Hicks said of Coe, becoming emotional as he recalled the “tremendous leader.” However, Hicks noted other great legislators haven’t had highways named in their honor and suggested the bill could result in every road in the state carrying someone’s name.
“I have to ask myself, if Sen. Coe could weigh in on this debate, would he say, ‘I want you to name a highway after me …’?” Hicks asked his colleagues. “We carry Hank Coe in our heart, and in our minds, he graces the Capitol of the state of Wyoming [in photographs]. … I think that’s a hell of a tribute.”
HB 135 ultimately failed on a 12-17 vote. Sen. Tim French, R-Powell, who replaced Coe in the Senate, voted in support of the Hank Coe Leadership Highway, as did Sen. R.J. Kost, R-Powell. Park County’s third representative in the chamber, Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, had cosponsored the legislation, but ultimately voted against it.
The defeat came as a surprise to Commissioner Livingston, who had said Gov. Mark Gordon might hold a special signing ceremony in Cody if the bill passed.
“I just kind of expected it to move forward,” Livingston said. Despite the setback, however, he vowed that “we’re going to do something” for Coe.
The Yellowstone Regional Airport board is set to discuss the possibility of naming the terminal in his honor at its May 12 meeting.
In the meantime, the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission passed a resolution honoring Coe at its meeting last week, commemorating his work to expand commercial air service in the state and “the life and achievements of a devoted public servant.”
On Thursday — what would have been Coe’s 75th birthday — Park County will officially recognize “Hank Coe Day.” Community members are invited to gather at Cody’s Beck Lake at 2 p.m. Following a short tribute to the late senator, the group will walk around the lake, Livingston said, taking “one of the walks that Hank really loved doing.”