This week Jacksonites reflect on the biggest stories of 2019, the ones that had the greatest impact on them personally.

• “Senate File 49 affected me the most this year,” Judge Nancy Guthrie said. “I believe that exempting private schools from local zoning affects all of us.”

She is a believer in and an advocate of limited government and local control. Senate File 49 eroded and erased the rights of residents, she said.

“To quote Gov. Mark Gordon, ‘SF49 was an unfortunate precedent.’ Many residents won’t realize this until the Legislature starts deciding unique Teton County issues such as workforce housing and affordable housing. I asked the same question our governor asked when he refused to sign SF49: ‘Is the logic that the Legislature is empowered to dictate local government more sanguine than the idea that Washington, D.C., can apply the same idea to our state?’

“I was affected when Teton County was afforded so little respect by our Legislature.”

Bland Hoke said the “Save the Block” campaign, which raised millions to save the Cafe Genevieve block, affected him the most.

• “For me the most impactful local story in 2019 was that of Jillian Miller’s experiences and the subsequent follow-up that may lead to legislative changes, if that’s what is required,” Teton County Board of County Commissioners Chairwoman Natalia D. Macker said. “Her courage — and the candor with which our community and state are considering these issues — gives me hope that meaningful action is possible.”

• “The recent story about the leadership change at the Community Foundation had the greatest impact on me personally,” Sara Flitner said. “I love this story because both the outgoing and incoming presidents are two of the finest leaders in our community.

“I have been looking for good Equality State stories to commemorate the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Wyoming, and these two powerhouse women give us lots to celebrate. I love being reminded that change is hard for all of us, but it’s not always bad. I prefer to spend time reading about achievements, people who champion helping others, and leadership that unites us. Well done, Katharine and Laurie. Lucky us.”

• “Car traffic in Jackson Hole has a great impact on me personally,” Carolyn Little said, especially “car traffic in winter created by Ikon pass holders, who all drive. Ski parking was a mess and the slopes crowded, too. Car traffic in summer was up, too, though business was down at restaurants and shops. I suspect it was caused by price gouging at our hotels,” she said. “I heard anecdotally that hoteliers were content to sit on empty rooms rather than drop prices last summer. I am guessing that more visitors stayed in Alpine or Idaho in VRBOs or Airbnbs and drove to Jackson for the day to spend time here.

“That explains more cars and less commerce.”

• “I think the local news stories that impact me the most are the obituaries,” Judy Basye said. “They tell the life journey of people who have been my friends over the years, people I have worked with and sometimes people I have taken care of during my years at the hospital.

“Sometimes I didn’t know them at all but wished that I had. People are amazing and lead amazing lives. I am often surprised at the incredible things they have done, which I know nothing about, the things they have endured and the impact they have made in the lives of others and in our world. People are amazing, and it’s always wonderful to read about a life well lived.

• “The short answer to the specific ‘me personally’ question is undoubtedly getting sworn in as a town councilor on Jan. 7,” Town Councilor Jonathan Schechter said. “My life has changed in so many ways — a few bad, many truly wonderful. In particular it has taught me a tremendous amount about Jackson Hole in general and especially the town of Jackson. I thought I knew about our community. I had no idea how textured and complex and nuanced and extraordinary we really are. I keep learning every day.

“Communitywise the answer would be the Friess family doing their end run around local government regarding the zoning for their Classical Academy. As the recent efforts by JH Working have shown, the Friess’ success has opened Pandora’s box, encouraging any citizen with money and a grievance about local government to plead their case to a sympathetic Legislature.

“The Friess’ efforts subverted a process that, over the course of several decades, has resulted in Jackson Hole becoming an increasingly desirable to live for people rich and poor. In particular, thanks to our planning efforts, Teton County now ranks extraordinarily high in a variety of economic, environmental and social metrics, including having both the nation’s highest income and the healthiest ecosystem in the Lower 48.

“No other place in America — and arguably, the world — comes close to having what we have, much of which is the result of the community being able to make planning decisions appropriate to who we are and what we value. The Friess’ efforts have put all of this at risk, and I’m deeply concerned about the long-term implications of what they’ve done.”

Email your Circling the Square information to Connie Owen at or call her at 734-9512.

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