Keith Dahlem wants to use his knowledge of the county and its history – along with a plan to address property taxes – as a Park County commissioner.
Dahlem, who grew up on the North Fork helping to run the Shoshone Lodge and then Sleeping Giant Ski Area, is one of eight candidates going for three seats. He still lives on the North Fork.
“I think all the candidates probably are qualified,” he said. “I don’t know anybody that’s not qualified. I just know I’m better than the rest.”
Dahlem said he had been pressed by people in town for years to run and finally decided to take the leap.
“I am a firebrand,” he said. “I always have been – I don’t care how much money you got. I don’t respect money.”
Dahlem said he does know business, however, as the former owner of Sleeping Giant. He said he grew the ski area, adding a new lodge and chairlift.
As someone who grew up on the North Fork, managed tourist businesses and had many dealings with Yellowstone National Park, Dahlem looks west to find solutions to some of the issues the county is dealing with.
He said the problem is that the National Park Service owns all of the hotels run by concessionaire Xanterra Travel Collection and thus Yellowstone is not contributing to property taxes as the park would if the hotels and similar buildings were owned by private companies. Dahlem said in his research many parks do operate that way.
He is also focused on ensuring that all park employees living in Mammoth Hot Spring or other places in Wyoming are paying Wyoming vehicle registration fees, which would amount to considerably more money for county coffers.
“So once we collect vehicle registrations, then we need to work on changing the law so they have to pay property taxes if they live in the park most of the year,” he said.
Dahlem said the plan would provide extra funds and the county would have to rely at least a little less on property taxes from the rest of the county residents, who recently saw historic one-year rises in their taxes for the current year.
He said he’s also concerned that the county will be collecting less sales tax going forward as a result of the park’s closure in June due to flooding damage and the lower number of people now coming through the park, as Yellowstone provides a big boost to county sales and lodging taxes.
“Well, I’ll tell you what, Park County is not going to get a lot of sales tax this year,” he said.
Beyond his proposals for the park to generate more revenue, Dahlem said his decades of experience in the county, running businesses and listening to the stories of his ancestors who helped settle the area, would be a benefit.
Dahlem’s grandfather, Henry Dahlem, was the first sheriff of Park County.
“I do have something to say,” he said. “I think I’ve got the knowledge, and I’ve got wisdom. I’ve got a varied background.”