After hearing demands for involvement from the Native American community in the process, Riverton selects a new city administrator in a private meeting

Members of the local community say they are “disturbed” and “frustrated” that Riverton has not “honored” their request for Native American involvement in the new process for selecting city administrators.

Riverton City Council offered the job to director of public works Kyle Butterfield at the end of a regular meeting on Tuesday, pending contract approval.

Community Safety

Five people had approached the council at the start of Tuesday’s meeting to reiterate the demand for Native American involvement in the city administrator recruitment process.

“We want safety,” said Riverton Peace Mission Vice President Allison Sage, recalling the 2019 shooting death of Anderson Antelope Sr., who was killed by a Riverton Police Department officer during a an altercation in the Walmart parking lot.

“(It was) a big scare for us,” Sage said. “(That) man should still be alive.”

He called for the new city administrator to be able to facilitate police de-escalation trainings, focus on the use of police body cameras and hire a community relations mediator.

RPM board member Nicole Wagon said the new city administrator should also have “positive experience” of working in a reservation border town, as well as “knowledge (and) understanding of the issues tribes”, “empathy for indigenous peoples” and “the ability to respond to racial prejudice, discrimination and police accountability.

RPM Co-Chair Chesie Lee shared stories of “civil rights abuses” that regularly occur in Riverton and throughout Fremont County, including “landlord-tenant bias, employment bias and equal credit opportunity issues”.

“Native Americans … get pulled over for traffic stops for no apparent reason,” she said. “(They are) followed in stores. White customers are served before themselves even if they are on the front line. (The list is lengthened increasingly. …

“I think if we come together as a community – white and indigenous – led by a city administrator with the right attitudes, knowledge and skills, we can do better.”

“I don’t see the discrimination”

Council member Kyle Larson said he was “unfamiliar” with the stories shared by Lee.

“I don’t see the discrimination you’re talking about,” he said. ” I have never seen that. I have never seen anyone come in and get in front of someone else (in line) because they were a different color. … I just don’t agree with you.

Council member Kristy Salisbury pushed back against Larson’s comments, arguing that if he doesn’t “see the discrimination” in person, it could just mean he’s “not aware of it”.

“Just because you don’t treat someone badly doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen,” Salisbury said. “(This group) is asking us to pay attention to what we’re doing to make sure we… are working together and being aware.”

Mayor Richard Gard, however, retorted that “it is not our job as a municipal council to be in charge of social society”.

“We’re trying to make the city work,” Gard said. “We are not in a position to hire an administrator who is only aligned with a racial center. We need one who knows how to buy a backhoe and how to drive it, how to pick up snow and how to take care of the water that needs to be delivered.

ThursdayLee said she was “upset” to learn that the Gard was not prioritizing “those kinds of social issues” when looking for the city’s new administrator.

“I found that disturbing,” she said. “We have no say in who is going to be hired, but we still want them to fix the problem.”

Internal hiring

When RPM representatives spoke to the city this week, the council had not yet decided whether to offer Butterfield the position of administrator, the Gard said on Thursday.

The decision was made in a closed executive session that took place at the end of Tuesday’s board meeting, he said, adding that the board ‘just can’t invite’ every group community to participate in municipal hiring decisions.

“That’s our job,” Gard said. “If you want this job, you should run for office and get elected.”

He acknowledged that Riverton had conducted more extensive research with city administrators in the past, involving public meetings and open interviews, but this time Gard said the board was able to find a qualified candidate internally. .

“We tried to do our due diligence and save the city as much money as possible and move forward as quickly as possible to make sure we have professionals running the city,” he said. declared.

He noted that Butterfield had already applied for the position of city administrator, when Tolstedt was hired.

Plus, Gard said, Butterfield worked at City Hall for the better part of a decade, so he’s a “known commodity, and we know his work.”

Butterfield also knows Riverton, Gard added — meaning he’s aware of the social issues that can arise in border towns on reservations.

“He knows the difficulties that come with where we are located and doesn’t just give us lip service,” Gard said. “I think it’s a response to (RPM’s) request. We tried to find someone who was interested in Riverton and committed to Riverton and invested.

Riverton Peace March organizer Ron Howard, who also spoke on Tuesday, said he just hoped Butterfield “will listen and think about what we’re saying.”

For more information, call the City of Riverton at 856-2227.

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