Who Are The Guys That Read Out The Bills During The Legislative Session?

There are two voices likely heard more than any other in the Wyoming Legislature, yet their names are rarely uttered on the two chamber floors. The two reading clerks announce the title and number of each bill assigned in the House and the Senate.

Leo Wolfson

March 05, 20236 min read

Collage Maker 05 Mar 2023 10 54 AM 5420

By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter

There are two voices likely heard more than any other in the Wyoming Legislature, yet their names are rarely uttered on the two chamber floors.  

It is the responsibility of the two reading clerks to announce the title and number of each bill assigned in the Senate and House of the Legislature. 

In the Senate, a silky-toned voice informs legislators and the audience about what bills will be considered on the chamber floor. This man is Cheyenne resident Randy Fetzer, reading clerk for the Senate. 

“I’ve never seen a guy that loves the job as much as Randy,” said State Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton. 

Although the job of reader may seem a bit formulaic or mundane to some, Fetzer said there are some surprisingly tenuous moments involved. When he is handed the sheet of bills to read, it’s always the first time he’s seen it.  

“When it shows up in my hands I read it,” he said. 

A former radio announcer, Fetzer has been on the job for eight years. But in that former role, he wrote his own scripts and got to practice reading his copy before going live. At the Legislature, he’s practically always on-air. 

Dockstader said the reader role fills an important duty by providing valuable information while not bringing attention onto oneself. 

“We want to hear it, we don’t want stumbling,” Dockstader said. 

Although his duties only exist for a few months a year, Fetzer said he has built close relationships with many legislative staff members. Also fostered is his reputation among legislators for consummate professionalism on the microphone. 

“People are going to our (legislature) website and they’re listening just to listen to him, they don’t care what the bills are,” security staffer Dick Morrison joked.  

Dockstader, who runs a radio station in Afton, said he noticed Fetzer’s public speaking talent immediately. Fetzer worked in radio for 20 years and then taught at Laramie County Community College for another two decades. 

With a smooth delivery, every syllable usually rolls off his tongue with perfect harmony.  

“The biggest difficulty of course is names, and after the first couple of weeks I usually get it right,” Fetzer said. “When you make a mistake, you just want to apologize for it. Say, ‘I’m sorry, I’ll try not to do that again.’” 

Fetzer said some unusually titled bills have also caught him by surprise at times. Luckily, there’s often a lobbyist or senator around to help him pronounce tricky words on the second try.  

Dockstader said Fetzer is so skilled at his job, the senate members don’t have an issue with him wearing a facemask while speaking into the microphone.  

“They respect that because he’s that good at his job,” Dockstader said. 

Dockstader worked hand-in-hand with Fetzer during his two sessions as Senate President from 2021-2022. While he was briefly filling in for Senate President Ogden Driskill on Friday, Dockstader noticed Fetzer staring at him. The man behind the microphone was one step ahead of the longtime legislator.  

“He was looking at me because he needed me to say, ‘go ahead,’” Dockstader explained. “He knows I had to announce him before he could start reading the bills.” 

Fetzer said the most surprising part of his job is that he keeps getting hired back. 

“He’s a good member of the team and he doesn’t like to take credit for anything,” Dockstader said. 

Senate Reader 

Just as skilled as Fetzer is State House Reading Clerk John Earnshaw. The only difference is Earnshaw has more duties. 

Earnshaw also serves as the assistant chief clerk in the Senate, where he performs documentation of bills.  

“For me, the reading position is a side position,” he said. “I switch from jobs every day. I’ll be doing my assistant job, the clerk job, and then I’ll have to revert to the reader job and read everything in directly. And then I’ll revert back to the assistant job and do that job.” 

Although this session has been pretty mild so far, Earnshaw said it can get pretty hectic once legislators start feeling the crunch of legislative deadlines and trying to push their bills through. 

A former police officer, Earnshaw was well acquainted with public speaking when he took the job four years ago. 

“I did speak in front of crowds and as a police officer I did speak a lot,” he said. It was a job where he offered counseling and important messages to members of the public at critical times. 

Earnshaw said he was first recruited to work in the Legislature as a Sergeant In Arms, but wasn’t interested, so he eventually became a reader. 

Earnshaw came into the House early on in Casper Republican Rep. Steve Harshman’s time as Speaker.  

“Certain people have certain talents and he’s one of them,” Harshman said. “He’s just like a TV anchor or radio announcer.” 

Harshman said he would frequently remind Earnshaw of the power of his duties, sitting just an arm’s length away from him in the Speaker’s chair. 

“I tell him ‘hey, no pressure, you are the voice of the House speaking to the Wyoming people,” Harshman said with a laugh.  

The Perfect Retirement Job 

The consistent schedule offered through the once-a-year legislative session is one of Fezter and Earnshaw’s favorite parts of the job. 

Fetzer, who is retired the rest of the year, spends his free time with his wife as he pleases. 

“We always joke that we do anything we want, and nothing that we don’t,” he said. 

Earnshaw occasionally delivers flowers as well but misses out on the biggest flower shop day each year due to the legislature running during Valentine’s Day. 

But as flexible as his job is, Fetzer said he always looks forward to returning to the Senate chambers. 

“Because I get to see my friends,” he said.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter