Rachel Orenczak and 2.5-year-old daughter Zaidi test out senators’ seats in the restored Wyoming Capitol during a public showing of the building on Wednesday. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

The Wyoming Capitol briefly opened its doors to the public on Wednesday after being shuttered for four years of restoration work. A large crowd gathered to hear speeches from politicians and watch legislators cut the ribbon on the 132-year-old building at an event that doubled as a celebration of 129 years of statehood for the Equality State. 

“This is your house,” Senate President Drew Perkins (R-Casper) told the gathered public before the ribbon cutting. “This is where your business gets done,” he said.

Contractors were back to work the next day, however, as construction on portions of the project is ongoing. The Capitol will reopen for business beginning July 15, according to the Legislative Service Office.  

People lined-up on the Capitol steps Wednesday for a chance to explore restored House and Senate chambers, committee meeting rooms and the future offices of Wyoming’s five statewide elected officials. 

The building will again provide the Wyoming public access to its Legislature in a way the cramped, nearly windowless Jonah Business Center that played temporary home to lawmakers did not. The sundrenched Capitol building has galleries where citizens can watch the proceedings on the House and Senate chambers from above. Meeting rooms for legislative committees are significantly more spacious, and anyone can walk in the door and find the offices of the secretary of state, state auditor, state superintendent of public instruction, state treasurer and governor. 

On Wednesday, Rachel Orenczak of Laramie took a moment to sit with her 2.5-year-old daughter Zaidi at a senator’s desk on that chamber’s floor. The state is also celebrating the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage. As a territory, Wyoming was the first government in the United States to enshrine women’s right to vote. 

But the Wyoming Legislature still suffers from a mighty gender gap — with 14 women lawmakers, Wyoming is tied with Nebraska for the fewest of any state and has one of the lowest percentages of women legislators, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Will Zaidi one day return to the senate chambers as an elected official? 

“She’s still got a little time until she’s eligible to run,” her mother said. 

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Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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