Richard Johnson to seek reelection to Cheyenne City Council

May 16—CHEYENNE — Cheyenne City Council member Richard Johnson has announced he will seek another four-year term on the governing body representing Ward 3 in the 2024 election.

If he is reelected, Johnson said his top priorities will be to continue community conversations around substance abuse and mental health, and continue to address the housing shortage in Cheyenne, using both local and statewide approaches.

"My one job is to make sure that Cheyenne is a nice place to live, that's all I really care about. ... That's why I care about the quality of life, that's why I care about the music and the arts and things like that," Johnson said. "But at the same time, I realize that you can't go all squirrelly with your budget, and you do have to work within your means."

Johnson has served on the council since 2020 and served a previous four-year term in 2014. In his nearly eight years in the role, one of his proudest accomplishments has been his work on a human rights resolution. The non-discrimination resolution, which he drafted, has now been passed in Casper and Gillette, as well.

"That, kind of, took human rights to a new level in Wyoming, where it hadn't been done at the state level, and only Laramie and Jackson had done similar ordinances, but a little different," he said.

Other work Johnson led or contributed to in his current term includes revising the water/wastewater treatment section of city code to bring it up to current standards, drafting resolutions asking that the state review low-water landscaping in neighborhood covenants, and drafting a resolution dedicating the revenues the city receives from WyoLotto to the Community Recreation and Events department. With this resolution, funding was made available to complete the new pickleball courts in Lions Park.

In April, Johnson arranged a community panel to discuss the issues surrounding substance abuse and how the community is addressing the problem. The panel consisted of representatives from local law enforcement, the legal system and those who offer support services, and was attended by community members.

"Nobody, really, in mental health and substance abuse really goes and lobbies the Legislature for this, and a lot of people are working, like, three jobs. ... So, (the Legislature), they're not really hearing from the people that this would affect," Johnson said.

At the discussion, panelists spoke of the importance of Medicaid expansion, and how that would support those struggling with substance abuse and potentially decrease the burden placed on law enforcement. Laramie County Sheriff Brian Kozak shared his department's struggles with maintaining the capacity to act as both jail and mental health facility.

As a frequent collaborator with members of the Legislature, Johnson encouraged some of them to speak with law enforcement on the topic.

"You guys are known for backing the blue, and then the blue is telling me that they basically cannot take care of the people that they've incarcerated," Johnson said.

If elected to another term, Johnson hopes to continue these conversations, specifically looking into how to support those who are no longer incarcerated so they can find treatment.

Another top priority for the rest of his current term and a potential third term aligns with Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins' goal for 2024: addressing the housing shortage.

Locally, the council has approached this through updating the Unified Development Code to encourage more housing development. While continuing to support these updates, Johnson is also investigating statewide approaches.

Housing Choice Vouchers are made available to residents to support rent payment through the federal Section 8 program. However, Wyoming is the only state that doesn't offer vouchers that can assist with mortgages. Johnson said he hopes to work with the department of Housing and Urban Development to make those vouchers available to support mortgage payments in Cheyenne.

With this, he said he hopes Cheyenne can be a model for other Wyoming communities to follow in regard to housing.

Johnson has lived in Cheyenne his whole life and enjoys working to support the community that shaped him. He graduated from Cheyenne's East High School in 1992, and said he has a diverse set of experiences in the community that inform his decisions as a member of the city's governing body.

For 10 years, he worked as a pizza delivery driver, where he learned the town's roads and gained an understanding of public services. He also worked as a dispatcher for the Wyoming Highway Patrol, where he learned about things like law enforcement, snowstorms and emergency response. He worked for Great Lakes Airlines for 12 years, learning about runways and weather systems, and Blue Cross-Blue Shield for the past five years, gaining experience in the health care and insurance fields.

Johnson said he is excited by the potential to continue to pursue his ongoing work with the city.

"This council and this administration has, by far, been the most effective one that I've ever worked with," he said.

Noah Zahn is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's local government/business reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3128 or Follow him on X @NoahZahnn.