Ray Peterson: Is Civility Behind us?

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By Ray Peterson, guest columnist

My years in the Wyoming state Legislature were eventful and enjoyable.  I learned much from senior senators who were kind enough to help me along during my first years of service. 

I was able to meet many good people from across our great state as we discussed important issues that we all faced. 

We had the understanding that we all loved our state and although we might have disagreed on solutions or had a difference of opinion, that each of us were there to represent our constituents the best way possible, in a professional way, as we demonstrated respect for all. 

We honored the process of debate and legislation.  We felt that we were an elected team sent to Cheyenne to solve our issues of the day.  We certainly understood how important it was to maintain the decorum of our group as we addressed serious and difficult issues that were brought before us. 

But most of all, we understood that not one of us was more important than the other.  Maintaining civility was critical in the debate.  Respecting the process and institution of the legislature was essential. 

We got the work done each session, always leaving with a greater understanding and more experience in dealing with issues and people. 

It was a very satisfying experience.  One that I will always cherish with fond memories of colleagues and constituents.

It seems that those days are behind us in the Wyoming state legislature.  As they prepare for a grueling 40-day session beginning in January, I wonder if we can get those lessons and practices of civility back. 

I’m hopeful that they can, as the work they have is too important to ignore by squandering the time with fighting, backstabbing, one upmanship, getting even, showing off, playing to the crowd, crushing the enemies, punishing the dissenters, disrespecting leaders, and so on and so on. 

We are desperate for strong but calm leadership.  We need more statesmanship and less grandstanders.  We need problem solvers not egotistical wannabees.  

If I could offer any suggestions to those serving in our legislature in the upcoming session, it would be to learn and appreciate the process and the institution of the legislature. 

Take time to look at the pictures of former legislatures in the gallery and halls.  It reminded me that many came before me and that many will follow.  Respect one another and to not take things personally. 

Each has been elected to serve.  Each has a love for our state and the people.  Each should have the right to be heard and each should be expected to demonstrate the honor that the citizens have placed on them. 

Swallow your pride.  Demonstrate your very best as you serve.  Be an example to us all and the leaders we need.

Good luck in the upcoming session.  I’m hopeful that you can be proud of your efforts.

Ray Peterson
Former State Senator

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