Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr speaks to members of the Junior Leadership of Laramie County during a luncheon Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, at the Cheyenne Public Safety Center. Orr spoke about her life pre-politics, the transition to her successfully running for mayor and her day-to-day schedule as mayor before taking questions from the students. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – When the Junior Leadership of Laramie County had the chance to ask Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr questions one-on-one over lunch Wednesday, they didn’t hold anything back.

“Can the next mayor get rid of any changes you’ve made?”

“Are you running for reelection, and why or why not?”

“Are you treated differently in the mayor’s office because you’re a woman?”

The junior leadership group, comprised of juniors from high schools across Laramie County, met with the mayor and other city officials Wednesday as part of their legal and government day. Throughout the year, the group learns about everything from volunteerism to financial literacy, and this week, they tackled all the ins and outs of local government.

Hearing from figures like Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak, Laramie County Commissioner Troy Thompson and District Judge Catherine Rogers, the students got an inside look at the functions of different aspects of local government. CPD Lt. Rob Dafoe, who serves on the group’s steering committee, led the students around the city as they absorbed information about civic life “like sponges.”

“One of the biggest things is exposure – seeing all the different functions in the city and the county and the state,” Dafoe said. “Very few kids in our community get the opportunity to even get exposed to that.”

Leonie Siegert, an exchange student from Germany who’s here for the school year, decided to join Junior Leadership to learn more about Cheyenne. For her, the most interesting part of participating is seeing “how people work and what they like about their work.”

Dafoe said one of the benefits for students is seeing what job opportunities are waiting for them after high school. Junior Leadership alums have gone on to be politicians and lead companies, and the program shows them how many options they have to make a difference. Each year, the group attends a career fair, talks with the military and learns financial skills to help them be successful later in life.

Leonie said the activity that piqued her interest the most was the group’s volunteerism trip to Needs Inc. in Cheyenne, which provides food, clothing and referrals to people in need. After talking with the Needs staff, she said her eyes were opened to the homelessness problem in Cheyenne.

“I knew that Cheyenne had homeless people, but I didn’t expect there to be so many,” Leonie said.

By allowing students to ask industry professionals questions in a more intimate setting, they can explore different career options and ask what working in those positions is really like.

Shelly Downham, Leonie’s host mother, thought the program would be the perfect way for Leonie to learn more about the Cheyenne community during her stay. Her two other daughters have participated in similar programs, and Downham said it’s a positive learning experience.

“It’s basically a great way to help young people be involved in the community,” Downham said.

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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