Ted Smith said he’s a man of principle. If it means saving the county money, he’s willing to pursue it, even if it means losing his political seat.
“I have no problem being fired,” he said.
Smith, a Cody resident, is running for one of two Park County Commissioner spots against incumbents Lee Livingston and Jake Fulkerson, and fellow challenger Scott Mangold.
One of his foremost goals would be to consider reducing the number of county commissioners from five to three in order to save the county money.
The commissioners receive a base salary of $36,174, a rate that has been set since 2014. The five members and their executive assistant also receive health insurance, which has paid out between $70,250 and $76,989 annually the last five fiscal years.
He said cutting back to three commissioners would save the county more than $1.2 million over 10 years.
The only Wyoming county larger than Park County that has three commissioners is Albany. In the a state, there are 12 counties with five commissioners and 11 with three.
“It’s really a … redundancy that really doesn’t need to be,” he said.
Smith is a Park County custodian and would have to give up that job if elected.
He said deciding to run has nothing to do with getting revenge for a search the commissioners performed this past year to see what it would cost to outsource the county’s custodial services, other than he thought the process should have been more transparent.
“Whenever you hear reservations about the public knowing, it makes you wonder,” Smith said.
In that vein, he also would like commission meetings to be video archived for public access as meetings occur Tuesday mornings and afternoons when most members of the public are working. Currently, the only way one can access a meeting after the fact is via an audio-recording request.
Smith said his major motivation for running was to provide competition to an incumbent race that saw no challengers until the last day of filing. He also said he believes in term limits. Fulkerson and Livingston are running for their second and third terms respectively.
“Nobody should get a free pass,” he said.
He said it was the same predicament that led him to run for township trustee in Huron County, Ohio, a position he held from 1985-1989. Smith said that job came with some of the same duties as the commissioners but on a smaller scale. He also served on the Huron County Airport Authority for five years and has worked at airports for a handful years, giving him interest in serving as a liaison to the Yellowstone Regional Airport board if elected.
Smith said he’s a believer in common sense government and the spirit of cooperation. He recalled a time when as a newspaper reporter in Ohio, he covered a city council that nearly squandered a generous grant opportunity because it had to put 5% investment into a project.
He said the county should have a cache of plans available for raising revenue in case a fifth penny tax doesn’t pass this fall, which he said “shouldn’t be the magic bullet to cure our ills.”
On a smaller scale, he would like to decrease commissioners’ travel expenses and consolidate vendors, a move he saw work in Huron County.
“There’s goods and services that could be centrally purchased and distributed from there,” Smith said. “You could have some good savings.”
Investing in business recruitment so less traditional enterprises like Wyoming National Laboratories, Yeezy and hemp producers come to Park County, he said would also be a top priority.
“Government shouldn’t be an impediment to business, it should be welcoming it,” he said. “If we’re going to compete with the world we can’t hide away from it.”
Smith moved to Wyoming six years ago and joined the county custodial staff around 2015.
He said as a low-income earner, he “knows the value of a buck.”
He is also studying agricultural education at Northwest College, going to classes during the day while mopping floors at night.
In his spare time, he honors those who have served by standing at Veterans Memorial Park in attire spanning the Civil War to the Vietnam era.
“It’s gratifying. Some people have had losses and want somebody to talk or listen,” he said. “Everybody says we need not to forget. Well, this is my way of showing appreciation.”
An admitted last-minute candidate, Smith said he still has some homework to do as far as the commission job.
“I’m doing a crash course on Park County,” he said with a chuckle.