Around The County.

Pat Stuart




We live in the best place on earth.” Or is it, “… the last best place on earth?”

Either way, I’m betting we all feel it’s true. A lot of our reasons for saying so will be shared; some might be different. My list varies by the season but right now includes seeing the aspen brightening, the smoke gone, the grizzly looking for dens …

I’m also spending more and more time outside, marveling as we all do in every season of every year at our sweeping vistas where never a person or building can be seen, where the smell of sage is unspoiled by gas fumes, and where no man-made sound disturbs the rustle of breezes among the grasses or leaves. It refreshes my spirit as it no doubt does yours and reminds of the essentials — of family and church, of friendship and values, and of our democracy.

Given my experiences in the now-finished 2018 primary campaign, I have been reflecting more on the latter this year than is normal, considering what is unique about our sense of responsibility that goes hand-in-hand with freedom. Even in a changing America.

I learned a lot about that as I campaigned (unsuccessfully) for Park County commissioner and drove around the county alone, feeling totally comfortable doing so and being welcomed everywhere.

Thank you for that. Thank you, too, because it’s apparently unusual in our America.

“Never canvass alone,” the books on campaigning say, presumably concerned about safety.

“Be prepared for having doors slammed in your face,” the books advise.

“Not here,” I thought. “This is home.”

And I was right.

Some of you don’t agree with my politics, of course, but everywhere I encountered a friendly smile, a “nice to meet you,” and a willingness to chat for a few minutes.

One woman in south Powell came to the door to tell me that she and her husband had already voted absentee. “… so you don’t need to waste your handouts on us,” she added helpfully. “Save those for people who haven’t committed.”

That commitment, I guessed, didn’t include me, but as long as I was there I asked her opinion about county government. She — plus so many others in her neighborhood and up and down the county roads — talked about their personal connections with the various office holders and candidates, which occasionally turned out to be connections with me. Men and women alike, leaned back, crossed their arms, and reflected about what they thought of the parts of county government that interfaced with their lives or about county decisions that paralleled their thinking … or didn’t.

Often, I heard, “Oh, I don’t know anything about that.”

Equally often, after a little prompting, that statement prefaced educated opinions on what they did know and think. More, they’d served on this board or that commission. They had volunteered, written letters to the editor or raised money for civic causes. They had attended county commissioner meetings. They had been at forums. They belonged to coffee groups that dissect every county issue.

All of which underscores how tightly the county is bound together in our democratic process and in how many ways you exercise a citizen’s obligation to participate.

Like many others, I’ve been guilty of saying, “Well. People don’t care.”

But you do — that became clear as just-washed window glass. And, thank you for sharing how you fit all those many different types of public service into various stages of your busy lives.

The really wonderful part is that, given our large physical size and small population, we don’t live on top of each other with the resulting indifference that brings. We still care about the issues that touch our lives and both can and do stay well informed on them. Best of all, our numbers are small enough that we still can feel confident that we, as individuals, can create change.

Which adds to my list of reasons why I can say, “We do live in the best place on earth.”

(Pat Stuart grew up here and spent her professional life as a CIA operations officer, bouncing around the world with a Ralston PO Box as her permanent address. She has published five books and — next to Wyoming, politics and horses — loves writing best.)

Originally published in the Powell Tribune. Reprinted with the author’s permission

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