t’s hard to get your start in politics. After winning that first election, one immediately finds themselves a member of the rank and file, stuck in a hierarchy that, regardless of one’s ability or depth of knowledge, takes some time to adjust to.
While a lawmaker’s first stint in the Legislature can be intimidating, some manage to make an impact right away, either as sponsors for bills or as reliable allies in coalitions formed by other, more influential lawmakers. Others — using expertise gathered in the private sector — can lend a depth of policy expertise few of their peers can match, gaining power through their ability to take ownership of certain issues. Former police officers and lawyers find themselves writing criminal justice policy, for example, while ranchers immediately get swept into working agricultural policy.
Oftentimes, those stages give legislators a platform to gain notice by their peers, leading the charge on legislation and having interactions with fellow lawmakers that can, eventually, lead to the coalitions needed to ascend the ladder in Wyoming politics. While their moments in the spotlight may have been limited, so far, these are 13 lawmakers determined by their peers to be on the path to power in the Legislature.
Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne
After spearheading the most successful death penalty repeal campaign to date in Wyoming, Olsen — who nonetheless, failed in that effort — has kept the pressure on in 2020. With close ties to a number of influential lawmakers, he could be well on the path to a greater role in the lower chamber of the Legislature in the coming years.