TORRINGTON – Calling the youth of Wyoming our “most valuable resource,” Secretary of State Ed Murray on Monday called for state funds to be invested in local communities instead of East Coast business interests.
“Let there be no mistake – Wyoming is a very wealthy state,” Murray said. “Yet the structure for investment of that money is such that most of it ends up invested in Wall Street instead of in Wyoming Main Street.”
Murray brought that message to the Torrington Rotary Club as guest speaker for the group’s regular Monday meeting at Cottonwood Country Club here. With a background of some 35 years as a successful real estate investor and developer, mostly around the Cheyenne and Laramie County areas, Murray has already applied the principals he learned in the private sector to operations in the Secretary of State’s office.
That focus on youth, particularly the 18-24 year old age bracket who seem to be beating a path out of Wyoming almost on a daily basis, has driven much of what Murray has accomplished in his first 2-1/2 years in office. His initiatives have already resulted in more than triple the voter turnout in just one election cycle for that same young adult demographic.
Shortly after taking office, Murray learned that just 10.6 percent of eligible voters in the age bracket actually cast ballots in the election that brought him to his current post in 2014, his first run at elected office. That ranked Wyoming in the bottom five for voter participation in the country at the time, a fact he called, “Unacceptable.”
“As far as the issues in and around Wyoming, one of the more pervasive has to do with providing a future for our youth,” Murray said. “Having a pathway that enables our youth to gain employment, to meet their mates and raise families, and to pursue their dreams here in Wyoming.”
To combat what he termed a disconnect between young voters and the process, Murray and his team created a Youth Voter Initiative as one of their first acts in office. The goal was to educate young voters while learning the underlying motivations driving their apparent apathy toward the
“There was a cynicism,” Murray said. “There was a true disconnect in the educational system, in civics in particular – what it means to be a good citizen.”
The Secretary of State’s office hosted a Youth Voter Summit in October 2016, just in advance of the November General Election, a first-of-its-kind for the state. That resulted in a more than three-fold increase in young voter turn out, with more than 34 percent of eligible 18-24 year olds casting ballots
Another area where Murray has worked to streamline the workings of his office is instituting an online filing system for business forms required by the state, anything from annual reports to registering new businesses. It was one of the first things Murray worked on, despite push-back from the political establishment.
“When I went into office, I was told, ‘We’ve looked at providing electronic filings, but it would cost between $8 million and $12 million and take 2-1/2 years to implement,’” Murray said. “It was represented to me when I took office that this was the reason we haven’t done
“It was a great opportunity for me to bring a new perspective and to look at things a little differently,” he said. “That’s why we were able, in six months, to bring electronic (business document) filing on board – at zero cost. It didn’t cost one nickel, after being informed it would cost $8 million.”
That’s just a couple of examples of Murray’s new way of looking at the office of Secretary of State. But he’ll be the first to tell you, that fresh perspective may make him less than popular among the established political structures
“I’m not part of the establishment, in terms of the long-term political players,” he said. “I’m perhaps causing a little turbulence, especially with the
“Some of my ideas I think are contrary to the methods and structures they have had in place for a long time, which I think handcuff in many ways the ability to invest in our communities,” Murray said. “I’m a strong advocate – and I know from first-hand experience – when you invest in yourself, the return is very good and good things happened. That’s the same principal I want to bring
Using a portion of the state’s $1.65 billion “rainy day” fund to help offset budget shortfalls – which was discussed and defeated during the most recent session of the Wyoming Legislature – would go a long way toward strengthening the state and help ensure a strong future.
“To me, it’s ludicrous we’re not using our rainy day fund – if this isn’t a rainy day, then I don’t know what is,” Murray said. “I think we have a long way to go before that underlying structure I believe is crippling Wyoming’s growth in so many ways can be modified.”