Billboard

The controversial billboard is on the Greybull Highway across from Beck Lake.

A new billboard on the northside of US 14-16-20 East has exposed political and ideological tension among Cody residents and those taking an interest in the city.

The billboard reads, “Don’t California Our Cody,” and displays a Blackwater Worldwide logo underneath.

The company started as a private military contractor founded by Erik Prince, who owns property in Wapiti. He did not respond to a request for comment about the billboard’s intended message.

The ambiguity regarding the billboard’s meaning has been the source of heated debate and discourse on social media, shining a light onto local political divisiveness and fears of a changing city.

“It doesn’t matter the intent, it is how many people have viewed the words, and that is, we don’t like you if you are from California,” said Rae Garrett, had commented on social media after an image of the billboard was posted. “But to intentionally degrade an entire state, that is not mindful or respectful to hundreds of thousands of potential customers or consumers.”

Garrett grew up in Cody but now lives in northern Colorado.

Local resident Tim Lasseter said although he would not put up a billboard like that himself, he does agree with its sentiment.

“I don’t want to say don’t move here because you’re a Democrat,” he said. “But don’t come to Cody to change Cody. Embrace Cody.”

The worry of Californians bringing change is nothing new.

Ann White, owner of White Ink Printing in Powell, has been selling stickers to the billboard at her store that read, “Don’t California my Wyoming.”

“We’ve sold quite a few,” she said.

Lasseter and others have said they believe the billboard is making a reference to laws made in Democratic-controlled state and city governments, like in California, Denver and Portland.

“Liberal policies have trashed other cities,” LC Timbs said. “The crime rate, tax rate of those cities has skyrocketed.”

One of the biggest critiques of the billboard is by some who consider it antithesis to the “Live and Let Live” ethos Wyomingites often espouse.

“Everyone has different views on life, how they wish to live it, and how they want things to progress or not progress,” said Garrett. “That is the organic makeup of every town, USA. That is called living in a human world.”

Timbs, a retired deputy sheriff, said he is frustrated with the level of divisiveness he has seen on social media initiated by “keyboard warriors” discussing political topics like these.

“If you can’t debate without being insulting, you shouldn’t be doing it all,” he said.

Although he hasn’t encountered any pointed discourse in-person, he said the left-leaning sentiments he has seen expressed on the internet have concerned him nonetheless.

Lasseter and Timbs both said Democrats are welcome in Park County, but both added that, those with this type of ideology should assimilate to Wyoming’s historically conservative culture rather than try and alter it to their preference.

“Don’t bring big city problems to small town Cody,” Timbs said.

Lifelong Cody resident Ronald Spomer has a different perspective on the heart of the matter and what the billboard means, seeing it as a rejection of big city culture. He said he has seen Cody become over-commercialized in his lifetime, with major corporations like Walmart and Starbucks putting down roots and more restrictive laws infiltrating the community, pushed by what he sees as an unquenchable thirst for constant change.

“If you don’t learn from the past, we keep making the same mistakes,” he said. “We’ve kind of lost the flavor of who we are.”

Threats to way of life

Garrett said she finds validity in Spomer’s perspective and said her current hometown has been hurt by the same problems he addresses.

“It went from a small town to a city, changing many things with unregulated and irresponsible growth,” she said. “But it doesn’t have to do with the people moving here, it has all to do with the politics, the laws, the real estate developers… . It is the regulations or lack of regulations the city officials, council, boards and commissions and so forth create. It is the lack of people becoming involved who are complaining or not voting or speaking out when issues like this arise.”

Although there has been a noticeable recent influx of newcomers to Cody, Spomer said he has seen this trend developing since the 1980s.

“A lot of them are just trying to run away from taxes,” he said.

Lasseter said he was surprised to find Wyoming was not as conservative as he expected when moving here about five years ago. In response to seeing people he did not view as true conservatives elected to local city councils and school boards, he decided to run in the last two school board elections.

By putting himself so prominently in the public’s eye, he said he has fallen victim to a number of insults, called names like “Nazi” for his desire to “fiercely stand up” for his beliefs.

“It’s so easy to try and link people into groups to try and win an argument,” he said. “If you believe in conservative principles it doesn’t make you a racist.”

“Our?”

When the billboard image was posted on Cody Area Classifieds, it led to hundreds of comments on both sides of the issue.

“This billboard helps to fuel hatred and divisiveness intended or not, something one can see on social media,” Garret said. “This statement has been used since I was born in Cody and was still being used when I left after high school.”

Some of the people who have spoken up most about the worries of Californians and others moving in and changing the character of the place are more recent arrivals themselves.

Prince only lives in the area part time, and Lasseter is still relatively new to town.

From Lasseter’s perspective, newcomers like him have seen how the changes to a city start. He said recent changes in Cody remind him of the shifts taking place in his former home of Branson, Mo., about 20 years ago. Lasseter said a boom in the tourism industry there brought an influx of new residents and corresponding growth in unemployment and drug use.

“I don’t want Cody to turn into what I left,” he said.

(46) comments

Flint Hostetler

Sign on private property,

1st Amendment Right ,so far

End of story [thumbup]

Steve Grah

I fell in love with this town the day I first stepped-foot here, in April 93'...and despite the all-too-obvious changes that've occurred in the intervening-years, my love for Cody has never diminished. That said, I recall the canned-response everyone gave, whenever I could'nt contain myself & remarked how great it is (was ?) here: "Yup...things are great...but someday soon, it'll be JUST like Jackson Hole..." and I recall finding it curious that whoever brought-up the subject, would almost/always accentuate on the word 'HOLE'. Nearly 28 years (this coming April 10th, for me) I finally, truly saavy what was meant, in such disparaging-comments. It HAS happened. One can honestly say "Wherever Jackson goes (or whatever problems that town faces) Cody is sure to follow and/or 'absorb'. Myself, I could honestly care-less where someone is from, how much money they have (or where they got it from) nor do I give a flying- eff 'WHO THEY KNOW, back in the world'...I have me ALL types. The only thing that matters to me is HOW they treat others they encounter, along their journey in life. Alot of talk (up above) in this thread about 'fighting the changes' happening everywhere around us, here in Cody. Like some of you, I TOO have been in battles before. REAL ones. I have seen things that I cannot EVER 'un-see'...and (also, like some of you) I have a sense for a very BIG one, fast-approaching. For all any of us know, it may be the very LAST one this...human...'Race' will ever have to experience. Only time will tell if our 'instincts' are right, but in the meantime...we should all TRY to make the best of the situations we are facing, and 'lead by example', rather than by aggressive-rhetoric. Show the rest of our 'visitors' what the word 'Community' means. It won't be easy, it never has been, and it is'nt likely to GET any easier (giving our current-administration) but we HAVE. TO. TRY.

Tom Fischer

[thumbup]

Russell OConnor

Cody will never become Jackson because there is nothing here during the winter. Jackson has great skiing. Cody can not compare to Jackson when it comes to Skiing. The people that live in Cody will not let that happen.

Lora Carpenter

Ha! Ha! Ha! Good luck with THAT!!!

Suzanne Paroski

I fled the communist country of California to come to a place where sanity is the rule. (I grew up in the desert southwest and even lived a year in Rock Springs as a child.) I fully support the sentiment of the billboard. You do not want what California has created. Taxes are out of control. Regulation is out of control. Environmentalism is out of control. I could tell you stories that you would not believe.

My hope is that those coming to this state are the conservative, rational group. I highly recommend discouraging the policy of enticing businesses from liberal states locating here. They relocate with their liberal viewpoints and bring their liberal employees with them. Texas is finding this out.

Live and let live is not in their lexicon. It's more like live the way my enlightened intelligence demands you to live or face the consequences. To think it is otherwise is naive.

Russell OConnor

Justin Smith, if you can’t see what is going on in the schools starting in 1st grade through college you are blind wake up. I have probably lived in this town longer than you’ve been alive. I love Cody and Wyoming, it is people that deny what is going on in the schools, people like you are dangerous, wake up. The first two things that Hitler dead, number one take away free speech number to take away guns think about what is going on right now from the list they want to control your life they think they can run your life better than you can we don’t need this in Wyoming or Cody.

Scott Weber

The barn door has already been open and the horse has run way out of sight... There are a tiny percentage of liberals here in the Basin 6% or so, but they are emulating the Obuma/Biden liberals in a feeble attempt to somehow create a very, very false "Utopia". Truth is, they live in an alternate reality and are so very disappointed every day in the great state of Wyoming.

For example, I shall never forget as long as I live back last year when our very own mayor and police chief knelt down for a convicted criminal (if you did research on the criminal for whom they knelt down you would see he had a thick jacket of offenses - one being his crew home-invaded a lone woman's domicile and the criminal pointed a loaded gun at her pregnant belly all the while demanding to know where the valuables were). This is as bad as it gets in terms of Cody being exposed to the worst of the worst liberal anti-American causes and our public officials bought into it! That's on them...

So, yes, there is CA liberalism creeping into our beloved Wyoming. And it is indoctrinated into our schools as well with hideous historical revision (making America look bad in war and treatment of war criminals) in our school textbooks. I witnessed this and stopped this when I was on the school board. There are pornographic books in the school library and these were defended by librarians and teachers.

There are liberals right now digging back 75 years in Cody's history to slam our state and town - the drill down until they have something - anything - that they can wave around like an Apache with a fresh scalp and proclaim "racist". There are liberals from Laramie to Jackson Holefornia to Cody testifying in front of our lawmakers at the Capital during legislative sessions about how awful it is to live in Cody and the entire state! One girl from Cody said she is "frightened" in our state and won't be going to UW. So CA liberalism and hate for America is here and now. Rest assured we can do the right thing and defeat it.

Every new director of the camp below Heart Mountain has to trumpet to all how "horrible" those incarcerations were and how it was a "concentration camp" when in fact the people were let out to go to movies and walk around town. And every director of the camp is ignoring that it was just the same people who helped map out Pearl Harbor and facilitate the bombing that killed 4000 of our good men. And they forget that the same people posing as U.S. citizens were the ones who harbored shot down Japanese fighter pilots in Hawaii after Pearl. And every director forgets to mention that some men eligible to fight in WWII for the U.S. side from the camp REFUSED to serve and were imprisoned. So CA liberalism is here. Historical revision to make America look bad is here. We can defeat. We can right it. We can put the facts forward.

I call these liberal transplants who come here and demand "change" Wyoming Haters. They absolutely hate the way we live. They don't agree with persons having land, owning big houses, hunting, trapping, eating meat, drilling oil wells, mining, fracking, allowing the hunting of grizzlies/wolves, running hunting dogs, having too many children, exercising their right of freedom and religion - the list goes on. So they come here and dig and dig trying to find and when they don't - invent racial hatred or whatever is in the liberal playbook any given month. We refuse to follow their "logic".

They are hypocrites of the first order: In Jackson they fly in with their private jets from LAX that burn hundreds of gallons of jet fuel to the fancy new airport just in time to attend their "save the moose" meeting at the Wort. That drips with irony and hypocrisy...

Yes, there are CA liberals here in Cody. Some are loud. Some are elected officials making decisions about your life. They want lots of taxes, they want to "tax the rich", they want Medicaid expansion (no matter the huge cost), they want a "special class" of persons based on their gender/race/lifestyle choices and then "protections" for something they can't define, they want the barbed wire down, they want trapping abolished, they love to name animals in the Park and make them "human", they want public lands to look at and hike, but not allow any fencing or grazing or trapping or hunting, they want meat production cut to zero, no farm animals, no rodeos, no zoos, no circuses, no oil rigs.... The list goes on.

The CA liberals want a "New West" full of "green energy" and wind turbines and electric pickup trucks and people who have no hate (not possible and never will be - gee, isn't Biden bombing people of color right now as I speak?). They will not get it.

The "Old West" is here and we will repel any efforts at "change" - we can do it at the ballot box and down at Cheyenne. We do not want a state where we can be taxed out of our homes or have so many restrictions we can't run a business with profit.

Bring it on liberals. You will be defeated at every turn. We shall give no quarter.

Stu Martin

And you moved here from where? That’s right, Ohio! Oh the horror! The horror!...yawn!

Stu Martin

Oh the irony! A transplant from Ohio complaining about transplants from California! The horror! The Horror!

Tom Conners

Well versed.

Tom Conners

You're funny.

Russell OConnor

I am with you 100% and would like to meet with you some time and talk, I am in the phone book.

Thomas Lewis

Wake up, Cody. Your worry about an influx of Californians is misplaced. Instead you might want to start paying attention to the lucrative short-term/vacation rental industry (AirBnB, VRBO, etc.) and how it is changing our little gateway community in subtle and insidious ways. Look no further than Gardiner MT to see what is headed our way.

greg mallcheck

Pay attention Wyoming residents,californians will destroy your great way of life if you dont get involved.

Tom Fischer

To start off , i am not a Cody native .. I grew up in Western Montana in the 50's and 60's.. As I grew older I resented the higher prices that Californians were able to pay for homes.. We ended up in a small town with a LONG commute.

The gentrification of former Ag centers shows to this day.. If Zoning laws were tougher the urban sprawl could have been contained and more orderly.. Boze-Angeles is a good example.

Later on in Helena transplants wanted to changes their new environs into exactly what they had left behind.. Paved roads (not gravel) , Cable TV , and door to door garbage pickup headed the list.. The urban sprawl that shows today was unstoppable .

I love Cody.. I love Wyoming.. I think folks here can address this phenomena that they fear without the reprisals to newcomers.. If people will allow our leaders to be forward thinking and make a few changes , then perhaps Cody won't suffer the sprawl of all those immigrants..

Lauren Tibert Wells

Agreed! Well-said.

Comment deleted.
Comment deleted.
Justin Smith

I like it the way it is without extremist political weirdos constantly moving here trying to turn Wyoming in to Iran.

BTW if every college is involved in some kind of conspiracy around the world and every news channel is in a conspiracy against your chosen one. Maybe the problem isn't everyone else, maybe its you.

Russell OConnor

If you don’t want to get hassled by people don’t move to a town and try and change it you have the right to move wherever you want to but you do not have the right to tell people what to say or what not to say. I don’t feel sorry for people that come here and want to change it to where they came from and where they came from is all screwed up I have no respect for people like that. You have no right to brainwash our kids and your way of thinking. People in Wyoming are hard-working people and God-fearing people and they also love their guns, there is more guns per capita in this state than any other state think about that.

Casimer Russak III

Maybe you should let 1 or 2 of the more respectful Californio types settle down so as to keep an eye on the trouble makin', property tax raisin', cattle rustlin' tourists from the Golden State.

Lauren Tibert Wells

[beam]

Susie Aagard

Tim is a friend of ours. He ran for the school board for he seen there was a need of change. Like book banning. Which the school board did a couple years ago. We are as blocked by a liberal on FB from here saying I bullied her for we got a not an argument over hunting & guns. So yes, they are moving into our area and trying to change it. They don’t want you to hunt the wolves for they are BEAUTIFUL, never understanding what they are doing to the elk, deer and ranchers. My husband is a native of Cody. He says all you see no w is NO TRESPASSING. NO HUNTING. Signs everywhere you go. He said it’s sad to see what Cody is coming. Said we should put a lock and key on lt. We stand with the sign and behind Tim. Leave him alone. I’m from the area he’s from. He wanted a good school board. Right now it’s horrible.

ron aho

After being a CO resident for 40 years I escaped. Don't Californicate WY.

Dewey Vanderhoff

Dare I recommend with all sincerity that you go to WyoFile's excellent nonprofit news site and read this week's key essay by former Cody school teacher and Rock Springs native Paul Krza, who went on to be the State Editor at the Casper Star Tribune after his paid vacation in Vietnam. Krza writes about Cody back in 1968 when he arrived, and again in the year 2000, focussing on Cody's ultra-conservative belief system , and what that means today in the broader contemporary context for Wyoming. It's quite instructive.

The essay is titled " Wyoming tilts right, and further adrift ". Again it can be found at wyofile dot com

Suzanne Paroski

The same article could be written using examples from the left. I am not impressed.

Matt Winslow

It seems un-American to tell people they cannot move to whatever part of the country they chose, and vote their conscience.

Tom Conners

It is truly pathetic about Wyoming people's blatant hypocrisy.Y'all allow your favorite political puppets to come into Wyoming from other states and spread cow flop yet moan when someone from a different part of the country moves in.Last I checked America has 50 states and for now people are allowed to travel and move wherever they can afford to live.Many of us had to leave Wyoming back in the early years of Reaganomics because of stab in the back policies against working folks.We lost jobs,homes, vehicles and in some cases spouses because of Wyoming's failure to diversify it's economy away from old school fossil fuel extraction.And please don't give me that old tired baloney about educating yourself for a better job...we did..and were better off for it.Trying to build a wall around Cody will never work...change with the times or fizzle out.

Scott Conger

Jimmy Carter enters Office: home mortgage rates were 8.8%, inflation was 6.7 headed to 13.3% half way through his term; GDP Growth was 4.6%. By the time Cater left office and Reagan entered, mortgage rates were 16.6%, and GDP Growth was down to 2.5%. By the time Reagan left office, mortgage rates were 10.3%, annual inflation was 4.4%, and GDP Growth was 4.2%. During Carter years, I bought a home with a 16% mortgage. During Reagan years, I bought a home at 9%. Tom, it wasn't Reagan who put you out of work, it was Carter. The Reagan years introduced austerity, which brought us out of a Stag-Flation downward spiral. You may have suffered under the Reagan presidency, I don't doubt it, but it was brought about by his predecessor. If someone is younger than 40 y/o, folks probably don't even know what "austerity" means.

Justin Smith

A lot of people here depend on tourists for their incomes. Just so you know, Trump approval amongst people with college degrees was very low (you know, people that can afford to come here and spend money). This is low class and distasteful.

Strange that the last two billboards like this have been from people not from Wyoming.

Susie Aagard

Maybe it was because they voted for Biden to get their student loans paid off. I know a lot of YOUNG PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR TRUMP. How ya like those high gas prices with the pipeline cut?

Lauren Tibert Wells

You should be happy the price of fuel is going up -- that means that so is the price of oil from where Wyoming gets the bulk of its tax revenue and its jobs.

Lauren Tibert Wells

I'm with you on this! Signs like these are an embarrassment and just plain rude. Speaking of educated folks, I take issue with a lot of these comments --- misspellings, poor grammar -- I hesitate to take any of these seriously.

Lora Carpenter

Jackson's gone......Cody's next !

Ken Montgomery

I'm a new transplant to Cody, well Clark. I have made it a point to meet as many businesses in both Cody and Powell as I can. I think I have met more of my neighbors than most people here have. I make it a point to shop local, support local and listen to locals. I've been so impressed with the "Western Republicanism" of many here, how most don't just go along with edicts from officials that make no sense, but instead think for themselves and live the values of self determination - the genuine sense of you live your life like you want, I'll do the same. This is something I have longed for. California is a beautiful state, that gave us Ronald Reagan, but it has become unhinged. I had to get out. I fell in love with Wyoming years ago, and Park county in particular. I wasn't interested in Jackson, that is what I was leaving. I plan on being a valuable, contributing member of this community and of the State. I want to see this area be as magnificent as the sunsets.

Finally, however you feel politically, with the influx of new people, Trump actually received a larger share of the Wyoming vote in 2020 than in 2016. So maybe we'll all be OK in the change department.

Thanks for reading.

tim stark

I graduated from Cody HS a Long time ago and moved away and still visit family often. Even when I was in school we had so many people moving here to Cody that they now probably consider themselves from here.

I don't agree with the sign but I certainly agree with what Mr Prince means by it. I live in a Democratic run city out west and its absolutely horrible. I travel a lot for work and every major city that I go to that is run by the Democratic Party is over run with crime, homelessness ,you name it. Its sad but true but its been that way forever. Cody could end up like that someday - don't think so ? I certainly hope not but every time im down in Jackson Hole , im reminded of what political party is in charge there and its not the same Jackson Hole I remember as a youngster that's for sure. Cody can still be a great place to live a raise a family but to many outside influences from certain states could lead this town down a path from which it could have a hard time recovering from.

Take it from a guy who lives in California and travels 200 plus days a year - and sees it first hand on a daily basis.

Jeffrey Boardman

Don't Margaritaville my Cody,,,,, wait, on second thought.

Dewey Vanderhoff

California is many things. Who knew till now it's also a verb ... ?

Lauren Tibert Wells

[tongue]

Pete Demoney

"Lasseter said he was surprised to find Wyoming was not as conservative as he expected when moving here about five years ago. In response to seeing people he did not view as true conservatives elected to local city councils and school boards, he decided to run in the last two school board elections."

So basically HE is trying to change Cody. This whole thing is one giant example of hypocrisy. But, can they see it?

Vincent Vanata

If you can't say something relative to the topic then attack a commenter. Okay? Remember some people came to Wyoming by choice.

Pete Demoney

Who am I attacking? He is trying to change Cody. Read what he said. You answered my question about seeing. Thanks!

Dewey Vanderhoff

Vinnie- unless you are enrolled Shoshone or Arapaho, they ALL came here from somewhere else by choice. You also left out the other side of the equation : we can all choose to leave at any time. The roads run in both directions.

Pete Demoney

There is so much irony here. Blackwater is owned by the Prince family, who is from Michigan. i wonder if the newcomers in this article realize that they are telling others how "our Wyoming" is. I had one invite me to leave if I didn't like it. He's been here a year.

David Shoe

Prince sold BW years ago it is now owned by the guys who started Triple C. Leave the Prince family alone they are kind and caring.

David Shoe

Also the Prince family has been here for years Eric Prince mother lives in Wapiti and has for many years. Eric's parents came out here many years ago.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.