As an outfitter, Park County Commissioner Lee Livingston is used to making difficult decisions on his own.
“Being an outfitter means there are many occasions when one has to make critical decisions without anyone there to confer with or back you up,” he said.
In his more than seven years as a commissioner, Livingston has had more than a few challenging calls to make, including some decisions that put him in the minority.
He said the decisions that financially impact someone are the hardest. Perhaps that’s because he is a small business owner himself.
“Being an outfitter also means I am a small business owner and I have to be fiscally responsible,” he said. “If I don’t have the money I don’t spend it. It has also taught me to have a savings to help me through the tough times or to be able to make a purchase that in the long run will be a savings on down the road.”
Now, Livingston is running for his third term as a county commissioner.
He said his time spent in Cheyenne building relationships with elected officials during the legislative sessions has given him a solid understanding of how the state government operates and how that relationship interacts with Park County.
“I have a good relationship with Gov. (Mark) Gordon and his staff that I feel is beneficial to Park County,” Livingston said. “My relationships with the federal land management agencies are a benefit as well.”
Livingston was born and raised in Cody. He has been professionally guiding hunting and horse pack trips since 1985, including four years guiding big game hunters in Alaska. He has owned and operated his own outfit in Wyoming since 1995 and lives in Wapiti.
In 2014, Livingston said one of his most interesting decisions came when he voted against including students living in Yellowstone National Park’s Mammoth Hot Springs into the Powell School District, yet the rest of the commissioners voted for it. Two years later, the commissioners expressed regret about the decision.
Livingston and former commissioner Loren Grosskopf have been integral parts of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the International Grizzly Bear Study Team.
They have worked to get the grizzly bear removed from the Endangered Species Act and possibly allow for hunting in the future.
Despite taking a major setback in the fall of 2018 when the bear was returned to the ESA by decision of a Montana judge, Livingston said he is still “cautiously optimistic” for delisting in the future.
The Shoshone National Forest is planning on unveiling a new version of its travel management plan in the next year. Livingston hasn’t changed his opinion on this matter since first elected in 2012. He said he would like to see existing roads remain open and be maintained for motorized recreation but does not favor building new roads or trails for motorized recreation unless it is a short stretch to tie existing trails together to make a loop.
In the coming months Livingston and the other commissioners will likely have to make some difficult decisions when it comes to the county budget. Park County already faced a likely shortfall before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and now the current scenario could exacerbate the revenue picture.
“I believe we are at a point where if we don’t see an increase in revenue we will have to start reducing services and possibly reducing staff,” Livingston said.
Livingston also said he supports putting a fifth penny general purpose tax on the November ballot.
“If that is passed I want to see a large portion of the revenue generated from it set aside for large infrastructure projects,” he said.