Job: Retired wildlife biologist, wildlife ecotourism businessman and administrator
Lives in: Buffalo Valley
About the candidate:
Tom Segerstrom spent the better part of his 36-year career in Jackson Hole advising landowners and field biologists on best ecological practices.
Before working 15 years as a staff biologist and land steward at the Jackson Hole Land Trust he founded Great Plains Wildlife Institute, a first-of-its-kind safari where tourists helped gather wildlife data for landowning agencies.
Segerstrom was elected to the Teton Conservation District board in 2009 and retired last year as its executive director. He is ready to come out of retirement for the third time if he is elected to the Teton County Board of County Commissioners.
As a certified wildlife biologist, Segerstrom said a knowledge of past and future ecosystem behavior would be critical to the board’s conservation decisions.
There’s no playbook for “right” ecosystem stewardship decisions, he said, but there are big-picture principles of ecology. Predator populations rise and fall in waves with availability of prey.
Similarly, he said, there are no “easy answers” to development questions in the county’s guiding land use vision document, the Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan, which holds the big-picture goal for how to best manage “postage stamp developments” for future generations.
While Segerstrom thinks like an ecologist, the Moran resident said he is not a “one-issue” candidate.
As a business owner he gets government processes, administration and budgeting, he said.
Segerstrom has served on the Teton County Library board and Natural Resource Technical Advisory Board, graduating from the statewide Leadership Wyoming program and updating the county’s natural resource protection regulations.
Before running for office, Segerstrom waited to retire from full-time work, especially work that might have conflicts of interest in land management. To do the job well, Segerstrom said, “it’s very much a full-time job.”
The Minnesota native said he also wants to improve the relationship between commissioners and county directors and staff.
Employees in a healthy government aren’t just financially rewarded, they also need to feel successful and have more open communication, Segerstrom said. Great benefits don’t always make a great place to work.
Segerstrom said that as an administrator and board member he has accidentally kicked a project back to staff without proper or efficient direction.
He doesn’t want to make that mistake again.
County staff are “frustrated, they’re exhausted, they’re just not capable of giving any more,” Segerstrom said. And that, he believes, can be remedied.
1. Affordable/ workforce housing
2. Commercial Growth
3. Water quality
4. Preserving ag. and open space
Do you support building the Tribal Trail Connector:
Yes, with appropriate environmental and community character safeguards in place. I must note that the Tribal Trail Connector will not solely resolve our traffic problems, not with a 2% to 4% increase in vehicles being registered in Teton County annually.
What is your view on taxation and the county’s role in providing community services?
Our tax assessments are dictated by state laws, but wise taxation is neither so excessive that it is oppressive to the public nor so frugal that valuable taxpayer expectations cannot be met. Valuable public service is a hallmark of appropriate taxation. I will work to find both tax relief opportunities from the state Legislature and appropriately fund county services. I have used this model in my prior government administration duties.
What is the most important conservation issue facing Teton County?
Unarguably, maintaining Class I water resources is a universal quality of life issue for all citizens. Water is an indicator of the overall health of our ecological community as well. Failure to take well-planned and strategic actions at this time would be a large mistake. The other conservation priority that is linked to water quality, is updating of the county’s Natural Resource Protection Land Development Regulations, rather than relying exclusively on the blunt tool of zoning to protect our ecology.
What’s the first thing you would do to help improve water quality?
The most critical water problem is in the Hoback Junction area. I would immediately seek to provide financial support to Hoback Junction residents striving to form a water district in order to qualify them for state and federal funds. In addition, the rest of the county must complete the larger, Comprehensive Water Management Plan that is currently underway in a strategic and fiscally responsible manner.
Is the Travel and Tourism Board part of the tourism solution or the problem? Why?
The Travel and Tourism Board is bound by state legislation to promote tourism. Thus, it can only play a part in the “over-tourism” issue. I applaud the board’s steps to foster sustainable destination standards and promote responsible tourism behavior. That said, sheer numbers of visitors can overwhelm those efforts, defeating ethical behavior. I will join other commissioners and state legislators in exploring new ideas, such as sharing the ever-increasing Travel and Tourism Board revenues with other Wyoming communities for their promotional needs that dovetail with statewide tourism. Another idea would be to explore the use of the board to support a “Wyoming Worker Visa Program,” where other Wyoming communities provide seasonal workforce personnel who in turn are trained to help spread tourism into other Wyoming communities as part of their employment in Teton County.
What can the county do to support the Latino community, about 20% of the population?
Outreach and promotion of opportunities to underrepresented and underserved people in our community is important. There are examples in our school district, our public library and our nonprofit organizations that are leading the way, and more can be done. For example, VoicesJH offers a communication service to our immigrant communities, and the county needs to further engage its services. The START On Demand service and attention to day care services would help all concerned. Like the private sector, the county needs to actively recruit returning college graduates from our underrepresented community members for departmental jobs.
What sets you apart?
No other candidate has my deep blend of applied ecology, business, public administration and local land conservation. I firmly believe that I am uniquely positioned for the job.