Joseph B. Meyer
Joseph B. Meyer, known as Joe Meyer (April 22, 1941 – October 6, 2012), was a Republican politician from the U.S. state of Wyoming. At the time of his death, he was the state treasurer, a position which he had assumed early in 2007, when he succeeded the term-limited Cynthia Lummis, who thereafter ran successfully in 2008 for the United States House of Representatives.
A native of Casper, Wyoming, Meyer was born to Mel and Leona Meyer. He graduated from the University of Wyoming in Laramie, with undergraduate degrees in mathematics and chemistry. There he met his future wife, the former Mary Orr, a native of Sheridan in northeastern Wyoming, whom he married on September 3, 1966. Meyer later earned his Juris Doctor degree from the UW College of Law and spent two years as the deputy county attorney in Lander in Fremont County and two years in his private law practice.
Previously, Meyer was the state's attorney general from 1987 to 1995 and secretary of state from 1999 to 2007. As secretary of state, he was the acting lieutenant governor. He pushed for statewide voter registration so that the voting histories of Wyoming residents followed them when they moved.
He first entered state government in 1971 as the assistant director of the Legislative Service Office during the administration of Governor Stanley K. Hathaway. At the time the legislature met every two years. Meyer worked with lawmakers to prepare bills for consideration. Hundreds of bills that he helped to write remain state law.
Meyer remained with the legislative office until he was appointed attorney general in 1987 by Democratic Governor Mike Sullivan. Sullivan expressed apprehension when he approached the Republican Meyer to be his attorney general: "I didn’t know if he’d be willing to risk a promising political future by signing on to an untested Democratic governor. But he was willing to take on that risk, and I think that reflects his courage.”
In Wyoming, the state attorney general is chosen by the governor, not elected. Attorney General Meyer forged an agreement with ExxonMobil over the determination of the value of the company's natural gas processing and transportation facilities in Sublette and Lincoln counties. When production began in the two counties began in 1986, gas price were low, and the method of valuation brought no taxable value to the state. Meyer hence worked to procure dividends to the state in mineral revenues.
Since 1971, except from 1995 to 1997, when he was the special assistant to the president of the University of Wyoming, Meyer worked in elected or appointed state positions. He served longer than anyone else in Wyoming history as the attorney general.
A prominent backer of University of Wyoming athletics, Meyer was scheduled to receive the university's distinguished alumni award during homecoming celebrations on October 13, 2012. His funeral was postponed so as not to interfere with university activities. Meyer was engaged in multiple hobbies, including fishing, camping and rock-hunting with his sons and eventually his grandsons, home gardening, bridge, reading, golf, and travel.
Meyer was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. In January 2012, he missed several weeks of work for successful brain surgery to extract cancer deposits. Upon his death at the Davis Hospice Center in Cheyenne, Sharon Garland, the deputy state treasurer, assumed acting duties in the position. Days later, a permanent replacement, Mark Gordon (born 1957), a rancher and businessman from Buffalo in Johnson County in northern Wyoming, was named to fill the slot by Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, a Republican. Whenever vacancies occur in statewide offices in Wyoming, the central committee of the political party of that officeholder has fifteen days to provide the governor with three candidates from which he chooses one to fill the position. Gordon announced on accepting the appointment that he will seek the position for a full term in 2014. In 2008, Gordon lost the Republican primary for the U.S. House to Cynthia Lummis.
The treasurer manages the state's $14 billion portfolio and is an ex officio member of the Wyoming Retirement Board, the State Loan and Investment Board, the State Board of Land Commissioners, and the State Canvassing Board.
Governor Mead termed Meyer's passing a "tremendous loss" for the entire state and ordered that U.S. and Wyoming flags be flown at half-staff, sunrise to sunset, for two weeks in Meyer's honor. Mead said that Meyer "cared deeply about his this state and its people and always put Wyoming first. His legacy of service is unmatched. He will be remembered for his wisdom and his wit.”
Former Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney, who attended Natrona County High School and the University of Wyoming with Meyer, recalled that the two had also shared a one-bedroom apartment in Laramie: "The two of us were dear friends for over fifty years, and (we) had so many shared memories that it is hard to think of the world without him. He was a friend to be proud of, one of the finest public officials ever to serve the people of Wyoming. I know of no one who knew more about the workings of government than Joe."
After Cheney was elected in 1978 to the U.S. House, he offered Meyer the chief of staff position, but Meyer told him, "Dick, I'll never leave Wyoming." Meyer added that he "wanted to be involved in public life and public service, but ... my future lies in Wyoming, and I want to be here for the state and the people of Wyoming.".
Former Governor Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat who preceded Matt Mead, said that Meyer "had the greatest public service record in recent history. He was a lifetime friend of Nancy and me and a lifelong friend of Wyoming." Mike Sullivan called him "a true son of Wyoming. As my attorney general, he provided me with support, friendship and representation as he did for the people of the state with extraordinary confidence and judgment. During his entire career he and his wife Mary served the people of Wyoming with common sense, good judgment, and good humor."
In addition to his wife, Meyer was survived by two sons, Vince Meyer and Warren Meyer (wife Cory), and grandsons, Ethan and Devin Meyer, all of Cheyenne. A service was held in the state capitol rotunda in Cheyenne on October 18, 2012, after which time Meyer lay in state until 6 pm A memorial service followed the next day at Cheyenne Hills Church, a Baptist congregation founded in 1992 and since located at 7505 U.S. Highway 30, followed by a reception in Meyer's memory. After the body lay in state, it was cremated prior to the memorial service.
At the memorial service, Governor Mead described Meyer's life as "a Wyoming story: a cowboy riding to his last day because it’s not just what he does, it is who he is. He works to bring every stray cow to a better place. And in Joe's case, it was giving your beloved state your every effort and your every breath to bring Wyoming to a better place.”
- Joseph Meyer obituary. Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Retrieved on October 15, 2012.
- Trevor Brown, "State treasurer, longtime state official Joe Meyer dies". Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Retrieved on October 7, 2012.
- Joan Barron, "Wyoming State Treasurer Joe Meyer's career arc left tracks", October 9, 2012. Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Retrieved on October 16, 2012.
- Trevor Brown, "Cheney remembers Meyer". Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
- Trevor Brown, "Mead selects treasurer". Wyoming Tribune Eagle, October 27, 2012. Retrieved on October 30, 2012.
- Cheyenne Hills Church (Our History). cheyennehills.org. Retrieved on October 15, 2012.