By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
As a retired military officer, Brent Bien knows a thing or two about leadership and he claims there’s a lack of it in the governor’s office.
The Laramie native retired to his home state of Wyoming three years ago after finishing his military career as officer-in-charge of the U.S. Marine Corps base on Guam.
A naval aviator since 1991, Bien, who retired as a colonel, served in both support and leadership positions in Bosnia/Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now Bien wants to use those leadership skills to take charge of Wyoming’s government as its governor.
“I’ve been voting in this state since I was 18,” Bien told Cowboy State Daily while on the road to a campaign event in Buffalo. “I’m originally from here, but even when I was stationed as a Marine Corps officer for nearly three decades, I kept my residency the whole time, and just retired back in 2019.”
Bien and his wife, Susan, bought a house in Sheridan as his retirement was looming. Susan works as a nurse at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Sheridan.
Bien, a Republican, said while abroad, he maintained a connection to his home state, visiting his parents, Bill and Virginia Bien of Cody, frequently.
“Lack of Leadership”
Since his return to Wyoming full-time, Bien said he has become “alarmed” at what he called a “lack of leadership” in Cheyenne.
“I think what I’ve seen is just a void, or just a lack of leadership down in Cheyenne, particularly out of the governor’s office, for a long time,” he said, “and in particular the last three, three and a half years.”
Bien said he has had his eye on the governor’s seat in Wyoming since he was a young man.
“My first trigger, I guess, was way back when I was in flight school in Pensacola, Florida, when (former President) Bill Clinton got elected,” he said. “I wasn’t happy about that. And I said, ‘You know, one of these days I’m gonna be the governor of Wyoming.’ And that paved the way for today.”
For Bien, Gov. Mark Gordon’s handling of the pandemic reinforced the idea.
“When Mark Gordon shut the state down, I couldn’t believe it, that something would happen, like declaring a state of emergency after one case of COVID,” he said. “And, of course, there’s a lot of federal money tied to declaring an emergency in the state.
“And I thought, you know, we’re 20,000 square miles bigger and 300,000 people fewer than South Dakota, and they’re open for business, and I couldn’t figure out why Wyoming was closed down,” he continued.
“No One In D.C.”
Bien said that he was also persuaded to take the leap when he realized that no one in Washington, D.C., was looking out for the best interests of people in Wyoming.
“Nobody is protecting the freedoms of the people in the state of Wyoming,” he said. “And because we already have seen the governor put our freedom on the table, I thought, you know, I’ve got to do this.”
Bien said he resigned his position as director of safety and standardization at Big Horn Airways in Sheridan in November.
He has been traveling the state since he announced as a candidate in March, meeting constituents and spreading his message of promoting freedom for Wyoming residents.
“My platform is to make Wyoming the freest state in the nation,” Bien said. “I plan on doing that by actively, aggressively, protecting personal freedoms – and that includes private property rights, and Second Amendment rights, and the unborn, and making sure parents have primacy over their decisions for their children.”
His secondary agenda, Bien said, is to provide more government accountability.
“That’s our state government,” he said. “That’s voter integrity. That’s eliminating crossover voting. It’s trying to get our budget under control.
“I don’t think we have any idea how much it really takes to run this state, because I can’t find a full blown, top to bottom, wall to wall audit since, gosh, for nearly 30 years… what it really comes down to is figuring out how much money we actually need to run this state,” he added.
Energy & Education
Wyoming’s education system is also high on Bien’s list of priorities for changes, particularly in the area of transparency for parents.
“After receiving nearly $500 million in COVID money, we are tied to the federal government for several years now, just in some of their education requirements across the board,” he said, “and I know that folks are not happy with that.”
Bien said that state sovereignty is a major issue, as well.
“I believe that coal, gas and oil, particularly coal, because we’re such a big coal state, that it is just as much our future as it is our past,” he said. “We produce so much coal here and, and we have the technologies that make it very, very clean.”
Bien said he would like to see the state change how Wyoming’s natural resources are perceived.
“They’ve been made out to be so bad, and we’ve got to change that narrative,” he said. “Because when it’s cloudy and when the wind doesn’t blow – and that doesn’t happen that often here in Wyoming – but you know, when the turbines stop and the solar panels don’t work, we really have to keep our energy independence.”
Bien said Wyoming produces about 14 times more energy than it uses, and he would like to see more production.
“I do think the way to target all of that objectively is to really take a look at the permitting process across all the sectors of energy, and make sure it’s fair across the board,” he said. “And right now I know it’s not standardized.”
Bringing People Together
Bien said he’s had extensive experience in getting diverse groups to work together for a common goal, as recently as his command in Guam, when various governments, environmental groups and local citizens needed to come together to build the Marine Corp base.
“It was a matter of coalescing these groups, getting them all together and trying to explain to them, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing,’” he said. “And, you know, it was about an $8.7 billion project, and of course, it’s still going on right now.”
That experience, Bien said, would be beneficial should he be elected Wyoming’s governor.
“I will work with the federal government, as long as it benefits the state of Wyoming, and as long as it doesn’t encroach upon personal freedoms, or the sovereignty of the state,” he said. “But as soon as it does I will have push. We haven’t seen that in nearly 30 years from our office, particularly with our current governor.”
Bien acknowledged that the state has made an effort to stand up to federal policies under Gordon’s direction by filing a series of lawsuits over federal policies including rules limiting oil and gas leases on federal lands and requiring coronavirus vaccinations for federal employees, health workers and workers at large companies. This week, Wyoming joined a “friend of the court” brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal ban on “bump stocks.”
However, Bien noted that he sees Wyoming jumping on the bandwagon rather than taking the lead in standing up to what he sees a federal overreach.
“I don’t see Wyoming leading in anything, really,” he said. “I’d like to see more proaction out of our current administration — and I can assure you, we will be far more proactive if I get down there (as governor).”
Bien said he realizes that standing up for Wyoming might mean consequences from the federal government.
“I always make sure that people know that, ‘Hey, you know, when I say no, that could potentially mean loss of federal funds,’” he said. “And Wyoming probably takes more federal funds than any other state in the nation.
“And so far, that’s been very well received,” he continued. “People want that – people want somebody to stand up for the state. And I’m willing to do it.”
However, Bien said he understands how difficult the road to the governor’s office could be during this year’s race.
“I’m under no illusion how difficult it’s going to be,” he said, “because we have a lot of establishment folks in there. But I think the rallying cry is, ‘Let’s be number one, Wyoming needs to be number one, and we’ve got to fight to get there, to advance our state to its rightful position at the top.’”