With Wyoming’s primary election a month away, candidates are under pressure to communicate their priorities. But how do those campaign platforms line up with Wyomingites’ daily preoccupations? In an effort to center voters’ voices and to transcend political talking points, WyoFile teamed up with Wyoming Public Media and sent eight reporters out to communities across the state to ask: What’s keeping you up at night? 

Here’s what we heard: 

Kelby Eisenman, 17, grabbing coffee in downtown Casper. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Kelby Eisenman, from Casper, turns 18 in September and is excited to vote for the first time. 

“I guess what keeps me up at night the most is the lack of love in people’s hearts and the lack of respect a lot of people have for people with different identities.”

“As a queer person, it definitely feels dangerous to live in a state like Wyoming, especially with how much is going on in the U.S. government, and just how backwards it seems that some people are here in town. And luckily, I have a very great group of support and things like that. But I can’t say the same for my queer and trans friends.”

Kenneth Ellis, who moved to Jackson from Arkansas for work, said affordable housing is on the forefront of his mind. 

Kenneth Ellis, 34, in Jackson across the street from Town Hall. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

“We all work two or three jobs and then we don’t have affordable housing. It costs like $7,000 just to get in and you gotta pay like $4,000 a month.” 

“It’d be helpful if they could just build one apartment complex for low income housing”

Luc Colgrove, 28, setting up for “Rock the Block” in Casper. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Luc Colgrove, from Casper, said he’s concerned with how felons are treated. Speaking from personal experience, Colgrove said regardless of what the felony is for, it can be hard to secure employment and housing post sentence. 

“Wyoming is a fortunate state [in] that felons now have the right to vote. So once you complete your sentence, as long as it falls under certain criteria, your right to vote is automatically restored at the completion of your sentence. But oftentimes, one of the things that I find is when I reached out to elected officials, they kind of pushed me to the wayside because of that status anyway, you know, a conversation like this wouldn’t ever reach anybody to make any sort of a difference . . .”

Cindy Payne, a retailer in Lander, is concerned about the high cost of gas, groceries and healthcare. 

Cindy Payne, 54, on the job at Simply Shoes in Lander. (Sofia Jeremias/WyoFile)

“It’s alarming. Like you’ll go into the store from last week and things have gone up again. It’s just like goodness, I don’t know what people with really large families are supposed to do.” 

“I had to have some surgery and my insurance wasn’t that great and didn’t cover that much of it. So I have like, $100,000 worth of bills.” 

Rachel Howerton, 30, on a bike ride next to Big Goose Creek in Sheridan’s Kendrick Park. (Maggie Mullen/WyoFile)

Rachel Howerton, from Sheridan, said that she’s worried about what water shortages mean for Wyoming’s future and the entire Mountain West.

“We’ve been in a drought for so long now. So water worries me for the fact that Wyoming thrives so much on ranching, farming communities. And a water shortage is going to affect grazing, it’s going to affect what we have in town.”

“I would like to see more advocacy and talking to bigger corporations because it’s not just our household usage that is affecting it the most. It’s more like corporations and policies that would be put into place that would help us on a larger scale.” 

Erick Morales, who works at a hospital in Jackson, worries that cost of living will make it hard for first responders and law enforcement to stay in the community. 

Erick Morales, 29, at Mike Yokel Park in Jackson. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

“We’re losing people due to housing. And it’s hard for people to stick around town because of how expensive it is.”  

Sunny Goggles-Duran, of Riverton, wants to know why it’s so hard in Wyoming to talk about mental health. 

Sunny Goggles-Duran stands in front of an inpatient treatment house at the White Buffalo Recovery Center in Arapaho. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

“It’s a big issue in Wyoming, not just the reservation, not just our communities here, but it’s a big issue across the state of Wyoming.”

“We are waiting for our leadership to really recognize that mental health is a big issue within the state of Wyoming and not put blinders on, you know, it’s not going to go away. If you don’t look at it, it’s actually going to get worse.”

Claudia Elzay, from Lander, said people could be more open to differing opinions. 

Claudia Elzay, gardening at her home in Lander. (Sofia Jeremias/WyoFile)

“I think that would go a long way to making . . . people tolerate other people more easily. We seem to just want to fight. And that’s not good.”

“I’m very disappointed that Roe v. Wade got overturned, and I worry about gay rights and things like that, that could very easily follow that. And that concerns me a great deal.”

Donny Brown, who has lived in Gillette since 1978, said the state needs to hold on to its coal industry. 

“I think it’s years down the road before they find something to replace it. If they close down, it’s going to be a game changer for this area . . . I mean, it’ll be a ghost town.” 

“It’s almost like you’re trying to take a way of life from people here in Wyoming. There’s just no way they can do it without coal.” 

Jamie Simonson, Superintendent of Sinks Canyon State Park in Fremont County, said he feels blessed to live in Wyoming.

Jamie Simonson, at work in Sinks Canyon State Park outside Lander. (Sofia Jeremias/WyoFile)

“I think everybody needs to, you know, speak the truth and look people in the eye and say, ‘it’s okay, let’s lift each other up and not tear each other down.’”

“We don’t need the government to help us. I think we can do that a lot better than the government can. We’ve proved that in the past. So I think it’s a lot better for us to help one another, lift each other up and not depend so much on the government, but depend on each other.” 

Ron Wild, of Rock Springs, said he’s worried about a lack of kindness between people and between political parties. 

Ron Wild, 57, volunteering for International Days in Rock Springs. (Daniel Bendtsen/WyoFile)

“Those are things that people in positions of leadership can address by simply being kind themselves in all of their interactions.” 

“Civility, and public life, will allow us all to work together better. You’re never going to agree with anyone completely at all times. And if we work together better than we can achieve better results.”

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  1. Glad I read this article. I was on the fence about the sincerity of the “no agenda” pledge. Now I know that’s patently false. This article was clearly constructed to line up one “sleepless citizen” on every progressive item of their wish list. The knee slapper is the ONE guy espousing individualism…with a States Parks job.

  2. If Cheney loses the primary, it means the right wing whacko’s retain control of Wyoming. I sure hope that does not happen.

  3. I have lived for over 3/4 of a century. Lots of ups and downs, economy, energy, politics and wars but in reality the thing that we won’t survive is Climate Change, Dummy.

  4. Being a Democrat in Wyoming ain’t easy. It is almost like being black used to be in the South. We are the cast outs. Very few Democrats even bother to run for office except in Teton county. A lot of the elections have no one running on the Democratic ticket and Republicans run unopposed. Gerrymandering has even cut out Democrats in Sweetwater county. Our newspapers are controlled by out-of-state Republicans with News Media Corporation. Popular healthcare is limited because the state has not allowed Medicaid expansion. There are few Democrats in the state legislature and those that are, have little or no power. I agree with Ron Wilde’s assessment. How do we become a more friendly state?

  5. My biggest concern is the influence that former President Trump continues to exercise over our state. In my opinion, the January 6th Commission has presented overwhelming proof that marks Mr. Trump as the instigator of an attempted overthrow of our Federal system of Government.
    It troubles me to see the hold that this man seems to have over many of our current elected officials and of those that are running for office in our State.

  6. What keeps me up at night? Truth. Rather, the lack of understanding what is truth by my friends, family, neighbors and almost everyone I interact with daily. What keeps me up at night? The plain and simple fact that if a person speaks truth they are a pariah. That keeps me up at night. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see!

  7. It worries me that we struggle to get beyond fossil fuel which remains top of mind for some people. We need to look at all the options especially the things that will attract and keep young people employed in Wyoming. Think about what options your community could create over time- short term and long term goals with outcomes. The natural resources will not last forever. Maybe not much beyond grand and great grand children. This is a leadership/community challenge.

    My immediate concerns – our democracy, the effort to turn it into personal agenda, respect, we are all human beings no matter gender or color. It takes all of us to make and keep this country viable. The need to create economic options for all income levels. Inflation is a topic, but businesses need to recover from the recent pandemic, the availability of product is a shared issue foreign and domestic. This country has been here before and survived by pulling together we can make the most of any need. Depending on the need some will be more effected than others but we will all have our experiences to negotiate or resolve. We the people can do this.
    Leadership hear what people are saying -think out of the box.
    People are our greatest resource. They are different with unique ideas for solutions. People don’t expect the leaders or government to solve the situation and complain about the outcome.

  8. Lots of good comments. We need to start building civility by agreeing on what is a fact and what is pure, unadulterated B.S. We’ll never get anywhere unless we can dispel society’s love of conspiracy fabrications. Wyoming is mired in it.

  9. What worries me in Wyoming is the focus of the Republican party. They are all get rid of Liz, Liz, Liz Liz! Find something else to focus on like inflation, gas prices, and for Christ sake, let go of tRump! We are all tired of his whining and the big lie. If he won in 2020 he couldn’t run again in 2024 so get over it!

  10. I think all of us want the same thing. We as a country are being told who to hate. These people telling us who to hate do not have solutions to our concerns and fears, they just seek power. Their hateful messages are meant to divide us. We must stop hating on each other. Really listen to each other and we will find common ground. As a country we must secure the foundation of our Republic by having tolerance for those not like us. If someone is not like me it is no skin off my nose. Hateful division will destroy our freedoms. I will be looking for leaders who push for the rule of law and take serious their oath to office. My pick must promote tolerance for each other. The answers are within us all, not the one!

  11. Nice article, but interesting nobody from SE Wyoming – you ignored the State east of Rock Springs, south and east of Casper and everything south and east from Gillette all the way to the Colorado border. Not sure I would call that representative of what keeps “Wyoming” up a night. No offense to Fremont County and as far as Teton County, not sure that is very reflective of the rest of the State either.