CHEYENNE – Looking at her team at city hall and the work they’ve accomplished, Mayor Marian Orr believes her administration still has more milestones to reach for the city of Cheyenne, saying “there’s still great work to be done.”
Last Thursday, Orr used Twitter and Facebook to announce her reelection campaign for another four-year term in Cheyenne’s highest office.
Elected as the capital city’s first female mayor in 2016, Orr wrote, “I firmly believe, now more than ever, continuity in leadership is critical for the city of Cheyenne to come out of this crisis stronger than ever.”
As Cheyenne and Laramie County focus on reopening the economy in a safe and balanced way during the COVID-19 pandemic, Orr said she remains “laser focused” on the situation at hand, and that she’ll be delaying her campaign kickoff.
“My attention is really on our business community and our families, trying to get services up and running and trying to figure out what this new normal really means for us,” Orr said.
Despite the current economic situation, Orr said businesses continue to show interest in Cheyenne and that the city will continue with its economic development efforts as grants become available from the federal CARES Act and as businesses look to relocate after the COVID-19 crisis.
In 2018, Orr was given the annual Business Advocate Award by the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.
Having campaigned on development and “fighting the blight” in 2016, Orr said both areas will remain a focus during her reelection campaign. According to Orr, her proudest accomplishment in her first term was the progress made on the city’s abandoned and run-down properties.
Now, the Cole Shopping Center, Atlas Motel, Bell Building and Carey Building properties are being redeveloped, replacing eye sores and safety hazards with businesses, government buildings and housing.
Orr said the developments have been “transformational” improvements to the downtown and West Edge.
When Orr hired Brendan Ames as the city’s first chief economic development officer, they set a goal to develop 45,000 square feet in the downtown area in 2019. More than tripling that goal, Cheyenne’s downtown saw 192,000 square feet of redevelopment last year.
“It really took a change of culture with our building code office,” Orr said. “It takes some political will to tell property owners who have dangerous and abandoned buildings that we’re not going to tolerate this as a community.”
In summer 2019, the building, risk and safety, and nuisance departments were grouped together under the umbrella of the Compliance Division, which Chief of Staff Eric Fountain said saved more than $300,000 in fiscal year 2020. By taking a more proactive and educational approach, Fountain said they’re working to help residents with nuisance properties stay in compliance with city code.
Both the Compliance Division and Ames’ position were born out of a strategic planning operation called Strat Ops that the city began in 2019. Orr said the operation involved “going through each division and taking a look at the data and the processes that we have at city hall and how we can better refine and define them.”
Through Strat Ops, the city also in working on a complete website redesign to increase accessibility to residents.
Having previously compared the current website to a kitchen junk drawer, Orr said this is another step toward increasing transparency in city government. During Orr’s time in office, the city has utilized social media to connect with residents, offering Facebook livestreaming of City Council meetings for the first time ever.
While Orr has had some struggles over the past four years with communication, she said she’s learned from her past mistakes, and is ready to continue leading city employees and residents toward a brighter future and making Cheyenne a better place to live.
“My favorite part about being mayor is really seeing the inner workings of a local government and what it takes to have such a livable and wonderful community that we do,” Orr said. “There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that nobody really knows about, and that’s a good thing. That means that the city workers are doing their job and keeping the city thriving and growing.”
The official filing period for mayoral candidates continues through May 29. So far, Orr, Patrick Collins and Rick Coppinger have filed to run for the city’s top elected position.