September 17th was POW-MIA Recognition Day in our country. Gordon “Alf” Parks and his wife, Ms. Sallee, asked me if we would be willing to do a proclamation declaring Cheyenne a POW-MIA city. As we were discussing the pain of having a loved one not come home from war, I was shocked to learn that two of the folks in the Mayor’s office have great uncles that are MIA from the Korean War. Michael Skinner is our Public Information Officer, and his great uncle Corporal Carl “Bud” Snider Jr. was lost in South Korea. Holly Martinez is the boss in our office, and her great uncle Corporal Elias Torres was lost in North Korea. It was an honor to have family members in attendance. We were blessed by having Major General Greg Porter join us to honor our POW-MIA members and their families. It was an emotional ceremony, and I am proud of Cheyenne, and its support of our military members, both retired and currently serving.
Sometimes you meet the most interesting people as Mayor. The Ambassador of Uzbekistan, Javlon Vakhabov, stopped by with folks from the University of Wyoming. He shared the similarities of his country and Wyoming. Agricultural and mining are the main industries, with efforts to increase tourism. It seems like there are many opportunities for the state to partner with Uzbekistan, and the opportunity for UW to do so in the education world.
I took a tour with many of our city staff to look at an alley that was the site of an accident involving a sanitation truck. It has a large drop that caused the truck to slide off and into an apartment building. We looked to see what the city and neighbors might do to mitigate the danger. I am interested in seeing what our staff comes up with as a solution.
We had a work session to talk about the homelessness situation we have in Cheyenne and frankly in all cities across America. We heard from Robin Bocanegra from the COMEA shelter and Rachel Martinez from Family Promise. They shared the mission of their organization, and the hurdles they need help overcoming. It is my desire that we work as a community to collaborate on solutions to the homeless issues. I have been meeting with folks to try to do just that. Fingers crossed that they share our passion.
Another opportunity to celebrate our military came last Friday evening (Sept. 17th). The American Warrior Initiative is a non-profit that was started by the Fairway Independent Mortgage Company. Their mission is to serve the veterans all over our country that have come home and really need our help. This evening they gave two veterans service dogs, paid for three more veterans dogs, and gave another veteran organization $10,000. It was an amazing night that was highlighted by a talk from Jason Redman, a Navy Seal that was horribly wounded in his last tour of duty. American service men and women have answered the call to serve since the founding of our country. Today, the country is calling us to serve the veterans and their families. I am constantly amazed at the volunteerism of Cheyenne people.
Judy and I attended the Symphony Ball on Saturday night. We joined Maestro William Intriligator, and Stephanie Garvey — a member of the orchestra — at dinner. Cheyenne is blessed to have an orchestra of this caliber. There are not many cities our size that can boast of a professional group of musicians this talented. I am in awe of folks who have artistic talents of any kind. I have an appreciation, but no talent. Sigh!! We bought the right to decide on a song for the orchestra to play next season. It will be fun to learn about classical music and pick a song that moves us. This is the biggest fundraiser for the Symphony annually and it was nice to dress up and see friends and acquaintances.
Monday morning was another meeting involving the arts. I have a project I would like to do involving public art and met with Harvey Deselms to talk about the vision. He brought Nathaniel Trelease and we are going to work together to beautify our city with art. Much more information to come on our efforts.
I spent some time this week working on the hiring of a part time municipal judge. David Singleton has accepted the job and we will swear him in on Monday at our meeting of the Governing Body. Our court is getting busy, and Judge Tony Ross needs the ability to take a vacation. This hiring will let him do that and will help the court keep up with the increasing case load.
The American Rescue Plan has given the city $12 million. We brought together our department directors to talk about how we can use this amazing opportunity to improve our city and support their departments. We have two years to commit the money, and another two years to actually write the checks. With this time frame, I want the governing body to be very deliberate in making the decisions on how to invest the money. Our next step will be for the departments to prioritize their lists, and we will have work sessions with the city council to educate them on the priorities. The council will make the final decision.
I continued my tour of local manufacturing business on Tuesday afternoon. Central Custom Molding is an injection molding company that uses some sophisticated technology to make products you see in some of the largest retailers in our country. I watched a couple machines make a drinking cap that can be screwed onto mason jars. They made 280,000 last year and sold them through Walmart. They also have an exclusive contract with NASA for a product called Aerogel. This is material they can put through their molding machines that is super hydrophobic and much more insulating than anything else on the market. NASA created the material for use in space applications, but it has so many potential everyday uses. So cool that a Cheyenne company has the exclusive right to use it. We have all heard that manufacturing is dead in America. That is not true in Cheyenne. We have between 1,250 and 1,500 manufacturing jobs right now in Laramie County. Congratulations to LEADS and all the folks working to diversify our economy.
The United Way works with 20 partners to help those in our community most in need. They have been doing this work for 73 years in Cheyenne. You can imagine the untold stories of thousands of folks they have helped over these years. Vernon Dobelmann is the new Executive Director, and Jess Ryan and his wife Danielle are the co-chairs for this year’s membership drive. The city has not had an employee donation campaign for a few years. I want to restart and reinvigorate our effort. I have already received great support from some of our departments and I look forward to reporting on our success. I hope everyone, who has the ability, will consider donating to the United Way.
Lunavi is a tech company headquartered here in Cheyenne. They started off as Greenhouse Data but changed the name a year ago. In 14 years, they have grown from a 3,000 square foot building in Cheyenne, to a footprint from coast to coast. I joined co-founder Shawn Mills, CEO Sam Galeotos, and UW president Ed Seidel to celebrate the tech ecoculture growing in Cheyenne and the announcement of Lunavi’ s newest addition of a digital consulting division to be located here. These are such high paying jobs, from the base salary of over $60,000 to well over $100,000. It is an exciting opportunity for Laramie County Community College (LCCC) and UW to train Wyoming students to work in tech right here in Cheyenne. I was so impressed with my tour of their newest 45,000 square foot facility. I guess I just did not know these kinds of facilities were here in our community. I also loved Sam’s discussion on how they were using other Cheyenne tech companies to serve their customer’s needs, lifting many of our tech businesses by working together.
The Lincoln Theater is now a live music venue with the ability to bring great bands for crowds of up to 1,250 people. Co-founders Jon and Renee Jelinek have done so much for downtown with the Lincoln Theater, Paramount Café, Paramount Ballroom, and fun office suites. We met on Thursday to talk about how the city can help make things easier for the music venue. I love their passion for downtown and their entrepreneurial spirit.
I met with the Business Council and Chamber of Commerce to discuss where we are at with the Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) with the Air Force. This is the area where we have the park-n-ride for Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD). It is proposed to build a very large apartment complex on the site to give Airmen a place to live when they leave the dorms. It is a slow process when you deal with government, but it is an important project for Cheyenne. The Business Council has given this project a grant, and we updated them on our progress and our optimism in getting this project finished.
We received a grant on Thursday for just under $20,000 from the Plains First Responder Grant program. They are in the oil and gas industry and give back to make sure local first responders have the tools and equipment they need to respond to emergencies. This grant will be used to buy a hazmat trailer that will include equipment to handle spills up to 6,000 gallons. With I-25 and I-80 trailer traffic intersecting our city, this could come in handy.
Our fire union had a change in leadership, and we met today to talk about our impasse in negotiations that have led to arbitration proceedings. Bill Hinz is the new union president. The union presented a new offer that articulates management rights for our fire chief. I believe the new offer is substantial and will recommend the City Council approves the deal. It will be nice to have our disagreements behind us.
Jonah Bank is 15 years old and two of the founding employees retired on Thursday. Gregg Jones and Mark Zaback have served the bank and our community from the beginning. I would like to thank them for their service and wish them well in their retirements. I know this is a little long, but I wanted to let you know the things that are happening in our community.