Chugwater Mayor Steps Down After 54 Years In Office
CHUGWATER, Wyo. (AP) _ Russell Staats maintains that he never campaigned to be mayor of this southeastern Wyoming prairie town, and after 54 years in office he’s not making a big deal about leaving the job.
″If I’d been mayor of New York City or Chicago for 54 years, I could understand it,″ the 83-year-old who leaves office today said of the attention his ouster has drawn. ″My sister and my kids are pretty excited, but to me it’s all just a lot of bunk.″
Staats blames his loss in last month’s election in part on his poor health in recent years and on his priorities for Chugwater. He thought the town should spend money on paving projects, while others favored a swimming pool and senior citizens’ center.
Nevertheless, he’s not bitter about his 43-18 vote loss to Thomas Reed.
″I’m still on the board of directors of his bank. He’s a good boy, a dandy,″ Staats said. ″There’s no other person in town I’d rather see in office than him.″
Recalling his years in office, Staats proudly mentioned the rows of trees that can be found throughout the town of 282 people and the absence of taverns as two of his greatest accomplishments.
A Nebraska native, Staats moved to Chugwater in 1922 to work in a local bank. Five years later he was elected to the town council and in 1931 won the mayoral race.
″They just kind of eased me into it,″ he said. ″I never campaigned for any of these blamed things.″
Although the town never had its own bar, Staats says talk of taverns helped him win several elections.
″The bar issue kept me on the job because at different times different people wanted to put a bar in Chugwater,″ he said. ″Without a bar in town, we didn’t need a policeman or a jail. Still don’t need one.
″In any town, Cheyenne or Wheatland, for example, the trouble starts when you serve alcohol in bars. Although the drugstore sells package liquor these days, I would hope we never get a bar here.″
The outgoing mayor beams when the talk turns to trees. When he came to Chugwater there wasn’t a single tree in town, he said.
″It really makes me feel good when I can look out of my window and see all of those trees,″ he said. ″Now that’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had moved to New York.″
Although the position kept Staats busy through the years, it didn’t make him rich. Initially he received $1 a year for his services.
″A few years ago they changed it to $10 at a meeting, but I just signed my checks back over to the town ambulance fund,″ he said. ″I figured after doing this for so long there was no sense starting to take money for it now.″