James Johnson combo

James Johnson.

CHEYENNE – According to James Johnson, the accountability for elected officials has declined since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said residents have lost trust in their government, with elected officials at all levels acting like they have no power.

Recently, Johnson said the left-leaning agenda has taken a stronghold because conservatives aren’t as vocal, but he wants that to change. Johnson hopes to bring that powerful, conservative voice to the Cheyenne City Council, so he’s running for a Ward 2 seat in this year’s election.

Ultimately, Johnson said he wants to help the council start doing the jobs they were elected to do.

“The City Council – their power is to control the expenditures and to hold the executive in check, and our current council is not doing either one of those things,” Johnson said. “I wanted to give the voters an alternative – somebody who will stand up, somebody who will put that effort in there to do those two roles.”

Johnson originally had his eyes set on the mayor’s office, but as “the new guy in town,” he decided the City Council would be a more viable way to have an impact. If elected, he said accountability will be one of the top issues he hopes to address.

By actually enforcing the policies on the books and actively questioning suspicious spending, Johnson said the council could prevent irresponsible or illegal spending of taxpayer money. He said his experience at the Wyoming Department of Audit makes him well-suited for catching misspending, though he noted his political campaign is separate from his job as a senior auditor.

“We can’t have a system where the mayor is able to spend whatever he or she wants to spend without any sort of accountability in regards to what is spent, how much is spent, and that sort of thing. The number one thing that a council can do is keep track of that and hold the mayor accountable if they’re spending beyond their authority,” Johnson said. “What’s the point of having a city council if they have no power, or if they feel like they have no power? If their only role is to say yes to the mayor, then there’s no real point of having a council at all.”

If elected, Johnson’s first move would be to lift all restrictions related to COVID-19. While the orders currently in place are from the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department, he said the council can choose not to enforce those orders.

He went further, calling the orders “draconian” and saying that health officers have taken over the roles of government officials. Johnson also voiced concerns that the health orders will be permanent until there is a vaccine, and when there is a vaccine, he said it will be mandatory.

“I personally oppose that; the people who support me oppose that. But unfortunately, conservatives aren’t very vocal, so ultimately, this is going to pass. Our health officers will be our governments for the foreseeable future, and we will have mandatory masks and mandatory vaccines in Wyoming, because that’s the vocal side that’s going to make that case.”

Along with being vocal about his beliefs, Johnson also plans on bringing a vision for Cheyenne’s future to the council. Having recently moved from Colorado, Johnson wants to lead the city away from becoming like places like Portland and Denver with “(Black Lives Matter) riots and Antifa riots every night.”

“A lot of people here in Wyoming, a lot of people here in Cheyenne, don’t want to see Wyoming turn into Colorado, don’t want to see Cheyenne turn into Denver. I stand strongly for that, considering the fact that I came from there, and I don’t want to see Cheyenne turned into the same thing that I just left.”

Johnson is running against Tom Segrave, Boyd Wiggam, Keren Meister-Emerich and incumbent Bryan Cook for one of two open seats in Ward 2.

Wyoming’s primary election is Aug. 18, and the general election will take place Nov. 3. Absentee and early voting are underway now.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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