So You Want To Be Wyoming Governor? It Helps To Be Male And Married With Kids

A Cowboy State Daily analysis of Wyoming’s 33 governors shows some interesting commonalities among the state’s highest office holders, including they’re almost always male, married and have kids.

Leo Wolfson

April 04, 20245 min read

Wyoming Govs. Matt Mead, Nellie Tayloe Ross, Ed Herschler
Wyoming Govs. Matt Mead, Nellie Tayloe Ross, Ed Herschler (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

No one governor is exactly like the other, but many of the governors throughout Wyoming’s 134-year statehood share similar backgrounds.

A Cowboy State Daily analysis of the 33 governors who have held office in Wyoming shows some interesting commonalities among the state’s highest office holders, including almost all being married with kids when they took office.

With the next governor’s race two years away, many in Wyoming political circles have already started speculating about who will run for the office in 2026.

Since Wyoming achieved statehood in 1890, only three governors have not been married when they took office, and none since former Gov. Nellie Tayloe Ross took office in 1925 upon her husband’s death.

All of Wyoming’s governors were married and had children at some point in their lives, including during their time in office.

Secretary Of State Connection

In Wyoming, the secretary of state is considered the No. 2-ranking political official and is next in line to immediately take office if a governor is unable to serve.

Although many former secretaries of state have run for governor, being No. 2 apparently hasn’t done much to impress voters, as only one has been elected governor, Lester Hunt in 1949.

There have been nine secretaries of state who have gone on to become Wyoming’s governor, and eight only because a former governor resigned or died in office. Five have resigned and three have died.

There has also been a strong tendency toward Wyoming-born candidates in recent years, with five of the last eight governors born in Wyoming. Although he spent parts of his childhood in Wyoming, current Gov. Mark Gordon was born in New York.

Prior to Milward Simpson’s election in 1955, there had only been one native-born governor in state history.

Ten Wyoming governors have also represented the state in Congress, but none since former U.S. Sen. Clifford Hansen took office in 1967. All but two went to Congress after becoming governor.

Suzi Taylor, a reference archivist at the Wyoming State Archives, said spending at least some time studying at the University of Wyoming plays well with voters, as does gubernatorial candidates showing some Western flair, whether or not it's authentic.

“Whether they’ve got their photo taken on a horse or not, it seems to give them a better chance when they do,” she said.

Wyoming's Nellie Tayloe Ross, first female governor in the United States, looks sharp, as if about to turn and walk to Wyoming's state Capitol, in the background
Wyoming's Nellie Tayloe Ross, first female governor in the United States, looks sharp, as if about to turn and walk to Wyoming's state Capitol, in the background (Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Second Term Reveal

Taylor also said there has been a tendency for governors to speak their minds more in their last term, which is a fairly common trend in American politics.

“Once they get past the point of reelection they seem to get a little more opinionated,” she said.

Gordon has been catching heat from some in the past year over a perception he has shifted to the left with his policies. This was particularly on display at the end of the recently completed legislative session when he penned vetoes on six hot-button bills.

Others like three-term former Gov. Ed Herschler were fairly opinionated throughout their time in office.

Herschler, a Democrat, was highly critical of former President Jimmy Carter’s policies and was informed by the president’s staff he was not invited to a visit Carter made to Grand Teton National Park in 1978, according to a Casper Star Tribune story at the time.

Herschler also vetoed more bills than any other governor in Wyoming's history at the time, but none of his vetoes were overridden despite Republicans holding supermajorities in both chambers during most of his tenure, according to a 1990 Star Tribune story.

“Folks like Herschler really didn’t mince words at all,” Taylor said.

Although Republicans have almost held a majority position in the state, Democrats were much more competitive in Wyoming for most of the 20th century than they are today.


All but one of Wyoming’s governors have been white males, aside from Ross, the first female governor in Wyoming and the United States. She was elected after her husband William Ross died in office.

The average age for governors to start office is 50, with nearly half taking office between the ages of 45 and 55.

Over the last century, Wyoming’s governors have grown older than what was seen in the state’s first 30 years.

Gordon was the fourth oldest governor to take office at the age of 61. The oldest was Arthur Crane, who became governor at 71 after Hunt was elected to the U.S. Senate. Crane served until the age of 73.

Amos Barber, the state’s second governor, was the youngest, taking office at the age of 30 in 1890.

Taylor said the religious affiliations of Wyoming’s governors haven't been well documented. There have been at least three Catholics elected to office, the most recent being former Gov. Mike Sullivan.

She said there’s still much to be learned and researched when it comes to 20th century political history in Wyoming. It’s a time Taylor said often gets glossed over in preference for the more traditional “Wild West” days of the state’s early years.

“It’s not as much the colorful stories of cowboys and wild outlaws,” she said.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter