If you are a Cheyenne resident-voter that follows local politics, the name of Richard Johnson, has probably popped up in conversation more than once around the water cooler.
In all seriousness, it appears that he has a completely diametric effect on those who have taken notice of his politics; whether from the outside looking in, or first hand. You either love him, hate him or find yourself completely confused by him and his presence in the political arena.
Some may say, though, that “is par for the course when it comes to politicians.” Rich, however, is far from par for the course when it comes to politics.
And, now, our Black Sheep Councilman, is running for Mayor, on a write-in campaign.
Richard is a life long resident of Cheyenne.
He has been labeled as “subversive” or “controversial” and those labels are nothing new when it comes to how he chooses to play his role in the game of society.
From a young age, Rich was getting things done in a manner of hard grit sandpaper. Ruffling feathers with his ideas; all while making strong attempts to involve sub-sectors of our community, places, and ways- to feel included in the conversation.
Take for instance, his involvement and passion to help get the skate park built.
I remember this town before there was a skate park. I didn’t skate but many of my friends did and I knew how badly they wanted a place to go; a magical place where they could do what they wanted to; a place where they weren’t going to get yelled at or cited for “illegal skating.”
Rich was just a few years older; he cared about skating AND politics enough to jump in, quickly discovering the depth of agendas when building something new in a city. Ultimately it all came down to politics and support of the community.
At a first and superficial glance, some may assume that Rich is just out to break things.
Breaking the systems and people who view him as obstructive or destructive… but can One individual really break something that is already blocked and/ or broken? Can One individual use their own transparency to show others that they need not pretend that superficial fixes and ignorance will alleviate a certain history of systematic dysfunction, that no longer fits our growing and changing the economy?
I suppose Richard is out to challenge that in a very direct way that will yet again ruffle feathers.
This is not to say that in the process of his involvement, officially with the City Council, that he hasn’t himself changed, and noticeably so…
It’s a moody spring day in Cheyenne, Thursday in the third week of May; we decide to meet up at the new Danielmark’s Brewpub, to discuss his effect on the community, and the reasons for the write-in campaign.
Rich looks like I feel; tired, and perhaps retaining some water. On his head is a black ball cap that proclaims “DON’T ASK ME 4 SHIT!”… ironic accessory to wear to an interview… when all I have is answers to ask for.
As per usual, he has also accessorized with one of his favorite black metal band t-shirts; today it’s Panzerfaust. According to Wikipedia
“Panzerfaust is an inexpensive, single shot, recoil-less German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consists of a small, disposable pre-loaded launch tube firing a high-explosive anti-tank warhead, and was intended to be operated by a single soldier. “
This could be the end of this article. Whether or not he realizes it (and I guess that he does), he sums himself up consistently, without the help of others.
My hope for this series of pieces is to give you a more clear view of where Rich stands on topics effecting this town. For those of you who may be on the fence, or just on the side of the fence where the haters hang out; This is for you.
We grab our brews, and head out to the nice new Danielmark’s patio, and jump straight into it.
“Well, Rich, tell me about how you have become who you’ve hated?”
Basically, over the last month, I have done a huge paradigm shift from who I was before January 5, 2015. Pretty much before that, I was an idealist, and now I am the fucking worst pessimist you’ve ever fucking met.
“So you basically skipped realism, and jumped straight to pessimism?”
Yeah, it’s pretty much, this whole escapade is a total fucking failure. At least my site lives up to it’s name now. (The infamous FaceBook page “Richard Johnson, You Failed This City)
“Why are you feeling so disappointed?”
Well, because I know that there are ebbs and flows, and right now it’s on a flow, and soon it will be on an ebb…and we’re going to get another old man as Mayor. And I bet you that this year the status quo is going to go out in droves and kill everything (progressive.) I was actually waiting for more candidates to run against me, not because of who I am, but basically because of what I stand for. So I thought there would be a lot more opposition candidates. I mean they have nine more days to file… I figured they would come in a put the kibosh on it. I mean if they really look at it, I haven’t done anything except repeal some laws and ordinances. Like spitting is coming up, and weapons. Basically (the) chickens was a thing that nobody thought should happen, but I just did it to piss people off.“
“Are you maybe just being a little too hard on yourself? I mean, you have only been in the position a year, and it probably takes at least a year to figure out what you are doing, since you hadn’t done it before.”
No, I knew exactly what I was doing. I did it with the skate park. I knew what government was all about, that’s why I thought I could just, kind of, mesh in. But, you know, really, it’s just smoke and mirrors. I don’t really feel like anything has really been accomplished in seventeen months.
“But, you didn’t have a clear plan, right?”
No. And I never do. I never run on that type of shit. I told them, that I have no agenda. For my write in, let’s just say that this community better hope I’m never elected for Mayor.
“What does that even mean?”
I will raise the impact fees for developers. I will never have a sixpenny or seven penny tax, where you have to pay for a fire station because a developer wants to keep a couple of million for themselves. I WILL RAISE IMPACT FEES, and I WILL make developers pay for fire stations and more police officers. And I know, the Chamber of Commerce is going to come after me and tell me that I am not supporting local business. Then the Council is going to flip flop on me because they are a bunch of cowards. They are going to get scared that suddenly local business’ that hires local employees, is going to get the shaft again. If you look at inflation rates the Walmart on Livingston paid $125.00 for their final flat.”
Richard then explains his observation of wasted funds on spaces, with things like landscaping, in the name of “beautification” with plants that are having a hard time surviving in our climate at the times of year that they are planted. At the same time he is addressing his experience with the community complaining about the overgrown Green Way, that is justified to not be trimmed as a means of “trash mitigation and purification of waters with natural grasslands.”
Johnson makes note that Cheyenne lacks a specific beautification plan that is symbiotic with the climate and environment of the city and surrounding areas, and that citizens and business’ are wasting funds yearly on everything but long-lasting beautification solutions that can also add to the potential uniqueness of Cheyenne.
Maybe it was the topics of trash and monetary waste; that the conversation led next to the other Mayoral Candidates running for office.
As you may have heard before this article, Johnson is running on a write-in campaign. No signs, no banners, no $25.00 entry fee to put his name in the hat. He doesn’t think you need to spend money on a campaign, and he is out to prove it in his own renegade way. Some people are laughing, I know… and maybe I am giggling a little on the inside, too. My reason is, “you never know until you try, and if you don’t put any money in… what do you have to lose?” Right?
A slight controversy recently came up online, after Marian Orr announced her Mayoral bid with videos, balloons and bright orange posters. Richard boiled it down to gimmicks and things that would end up as trash in peoples yards. In turn, he encouraged voters to avoid posters on their lawns and in their business’, and instead, actually investigate what the constituents were currently doing in the community that would prove they should have a seat ( whether City Council, Mayor, or beyond.)
Social Media followers of Richard Johnson and active participants in the community eager to try their hand at city council agreed with his logic. Gabe Pina of Pina Accounting and the Downtown Cheyenne Business Coop is running for a seat in Ward 3 City Council. He was inspired to ask his supporters to donate to one of several community charities in lieu of campaign donations.
I almost feel like an asshole now, every time I go into a new business opening because I am surrounded by fake assholes. I am surrounded by ‘candidates’. It’s almost like everything I have done for the last year and a half on my own was “Oh I am elected, now I have to really go out and support my community. “
And support his community he did. “Richard Johnson, You Failed This City” has been just as abuzz with community events as it has been with Johnson’s personal rants; raves, observations, controversial pictures and not so rhetorical questions.
Anything having to do with Cheyenne; issues within the community have been posted to his social media participants, by Richard himself. Concerns by the public have been emailed to him, and he has posted them anonymously to gauge the interest of the community with topics raised. Overall, Rich has made a pretty concerted effort to attend as many events as possible regardless of niche or perceived “cool” factor.
More than once, Richard has arrived unannounced, and not specifically invited. And, perhaps to some onlookers, who may have been selfly placated in their own perceived superiority; were the least impressed with the effort in which Mr. Johnson was asserting himself into political circles concerning this community in the fine state of Wyoming.
So, though perhaps not out to impress, Richard Johnson is more willing than others to play the game and attempt to beat it by breaking the status quo. Whether he breaks it, or perhaps just overloads the system; there is bound to be an impact for Cheyenne.
(To go to Part 2, CLICK HERE)