Rural issues central to Denke's run in District 2

Aug 9, 2012 By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Richard Denke cites the government's lack of services and a concern for rural areas in Fremont County as his reasons for running for the county commission's District 2 seat.

"I'm tired of the abuse of the rural population or the people that live out in the rural areas," Denke said, using examples of limited access to landfill sites and decreased hours of operation at the Dubois library.

"It's only open minimal during the week. And they keep remodeling and doing this and the other to the Riverton library and the Lander library, but the people out here are the ones that are suffering," the 38-year-old said.

"Anytime someone wants to get a book or a movie, we have to drive all the way to Riverton or Lander from wherever we live," said Denke, who lives near the northwest section of Ocean Lake. "I feel we really need our public libraries back in the small communities."

Denke is seeking the Republican nomination in the Aug. 21 primary election for the commission's District 2 seat against Larry Allen, Tim Salazar and incumbent Dennis Christensen.

The district covers much of the county's northern section stretching from Dubois to Shoshoni. Denke said residents in the district face undue burdens from government.

"These people out here, the landowners pay a mill levy for the solid waste so we can get rid of our garbage," he said. "Now people have to take time off work so they can hit the scheduled days to go to the dump. Getting to the Dumpster out here, some people can do it, and some people can't."

Denke cited his personal life in raising questions about governmental burdens placed on garbage disposal.

"Myself, I make two 50-gallon barrels of garbage every six months," he said. "So when I take my garbage to the dump I have to pay $35 for two barrels plus pay my property taxes."

Goals for office

Other concerns Denke has include the high population numbers at the county jail in Lander.

"Our jail is always completely full of the same individuals," Denke said. "They pick them up for DUIs or public intox, and they go to the jail for their time, and then they get back out, and they're right back in. Maybe our criminal justice system isn't strict enough."

As for his goals in office if elected, Denke said he wants to streamline government and reduce inefficiency.

"The government jobs that are around the county, there's quite a few of them that are redundant or nobody really knows what their purpose is," he said. "That's what I get from people around the community."

Denke said he would explore the job functions.

"There's just a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to what several of the county employees do that people in this district are having a hard time grasping," he said.

Denke raised questions about the county transportation department's engineer as an example, but "not to pick on anybody."

"We have a road engineer that when they redid the Burma Road project, they hired an engineering firm to do that. And I guess the roads engineer wasn't -- he was involved but maybe not to the extent he should have been. And I'm not picking on him personally. It's just one of the ones that the people out here are saying, 'Why?'" he said.

Rural law enforcement

Denke wants to improve law enforcement coverage in the rural areas, specifically in the Pavillion, Lysite and Lost Cabin areas.

"Shoshoni has their own police department, but Pavillion, Kinnear, Jeffrey City and Atlantic City, we don't have any law enforcement that hangs out," he said. "When school's in session, Pavillion has one, (a school resource officer) at school, but the rest of the time I've not seen a deputy in or right around in Pavillion all summer."

Denke also wants to improve the fire and ambulance services in the county, especially to the outlying regions.

"It's basically impossible because everybody that's on the fire department or ambulance department in the rural areas works full-time jobs during the week, so lots of places out here you call for an ambulance during the week, you may be waiting an hour," he said. "I don't know if something could be looked into about part-time staffing of ambulances out here. Then our fire countywide is pretty understaffed. I think we need to actively and aggressively seek more members for both of those departments."

Living basically in the middle of District 2 since he was born, Denke said he understands the area's issues and concerns.

"I'm directly tied to this area," he said. "I was born here 38 years ago in 1973. I was raised here on the family farm. I know the area extremely well."

Denke has been married to his wife, Angela, for five years. He has a 13-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

He has served as chief of the county battalion for his area and is currently the division's assistant chief. He is a full-time farmer who raise potatoes, corn, pigs, sheep, alfalfa and barley.

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