Herd and Scene recently sat down with the Mayor of Buffalo, WY, Mike Johnson to ask him about his town and his time as mayor.
How long have you been the mayor of Buffalo?
This time, a little over two years. This is the second time; I was elected to council and started in 2006 and was appointed mayor in 2008.
What have you gained from the experience?
Well, a much better understanding of how the city works and how it interacts with the county, and other agencies state-wide and federally as well.
Do you think you’ve gotten closer to the people of Buffalo?
Hmm. I grew up here, so I know a lot of people, and I’ve been involved in a lot of organizations before this. The short answer, though, is yes. Obviously, when you’re mayor you speak to a lot of people. I think that I already knew a lot of people from before. I work at the hospital, so I see a lot of people there, and I own a home care business so I’m out in the community a lot. But definitely, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people that I wouldn’t have had I not been in this position.
So being involved with these other ventures and being a public servant, maybe mayor was the next logical step?
Well, you know, at that time I didn’t really have any plans aspirations. I graduated high school here, went to school in Casper then I went down to California. I was California for 19 years before I came back in 1995. I decided to get involved with the city stuff because if you’ve got rules that need to be followed, they should be followed by everybody. There should be no exceptions or special exemptions. If the rule, law, or ordinance that isn’t working, then there should be an easy path to replace or repeal it. So that’s why I decided to go for mayor, there were people approaching me who wanted me to make exceptions for them. You can’t show favoritism, to one or the other.
So a government should always serve the people?
Oh, absolutely. You know, we have tough decisions we have to make and we’re always gonna make someone mad. The best thing we can do is to know the subject as well as possible and make decisions based on that. If you and I are having a discussion and we disagree on a topic, but you show me through research and other means a different point of view, well first of all I need to be open to it, but I need to be able to say, “Hey you know what, you’re right. I hadn’t seen it that way.” You need to have someone who’s able to look at things rationally; if someone is so entrenched in their own beliefs that they can’t see any other point of view, then obviously you’ve got very serious dysfunction.
Is there anything you’d change from your tenure?
Well, in my first tenure, I ended up resigning. I owned the Motel 6 at the time, I worked at the hospital and had other business ventures. I also served on 7 other boards here in the city. I just didn’t think I was doing the job to the best of my abilities, so I resigned. Going back, I think I would’ve just toughed it out. I’m conservative by nature and as such, I think we need to be good stewards of the tax payers money. We have things we need to do: mandates from the federal government which some think are asinine and I agree at some level. Again, we have decisions we need to make and you really just can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. But, from my last term, I’ve been here about two years now, I don’t think there’s anything I would change.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I’m proud of the way we look at and handle things. There’s not one single thing that stands out to me. We’ve done a lot of things, we’ve accomplished a lot of things, but we do have a lot to go. Buffalo has, in the past, been blessed with people who had tremendous vision. Originally, Buffalo was not going to have an exit coming off of I90. So, there was a committee that came together that basically fought that, and Buffalo is what it is today because of that, in my opinion. The Tie Hack Reservoir, our water source, took a lot of vision and hard work within our organization. It took a long time, and a lot of people coming together to say that it’ll provide a great service for a long time to come. To be totally honest, I don’t know if that project would be done today. I had a great friend of mine who used to be a mayor, and he and I have sat down numerous times and have patently disagreed. But, you can’t come away from that with hatred or resentment. Since I’ve been here, we’ve tried to be and I think have been fiscally responsible. Some people would disagree with us, they might not think that this or that project was necessary, but there’s not one thing that stands out. Really though, I’m not in it for the accomplishments or the credit. I love Buffalo, I think Buffalo is an amazing place to live. For me, the bottom line is making Buffalo the best it can be, and the best for the people who live here.
We’re very thankful to Mr. Johnson for sitting down with us, and we wish him a fortuitous rest of his tenure as mayor of Buffalo!
“Buffalo is a great place to visit, to live, and to stay.”