-- What goals do you have for yourself in this elected position?
If elected, my goal will be to serve the people of Rock Springs by working to make this the strongest community we can. This will start with rebuilding a strong economic foundation to rid ourselves of the boom-and-bust cycle we have always known. Next we use that base to improve our community. This includes continuing work on downtown, and maintaining or even expanding our recreational opportunities as we can, and thinking outside the box to find new opportunities to make Rock Springs a place people want to visit and live.
-- What is your take on the economy and what do you think needs to be done to improve it?
We need to understand that this bust is likely very different than any we have ever experienced. Two of our three major industries are either in a hard downturn or are planned to be phased out in the near future. We need to face the hard fact that Rock Springs cannot only be an energy and mining community. So we need to work diligently and quickly to make Rock Springs a place that will attract new industries to fill the gap. Some should be able to capitalize on the resources we have, others will require more things like infrastructure and other improvements. That doesn't mean it's impossible. Breaking the cycle is the key to succeeding as a city.
-- When it comes to budgets, what revenue sources will you turn to and what items would you cut?
Again, the best fix to this budget situation is to diversify economically, but that doesn't work in the short term. The difficulty is most of the city's funding comes from sales and property taxes, both of which are down, so it's time to think outside the box. We can start by working with legislators, who can consider an array of things to help out municipalities in Wyoming. Sadly, the biggest thing may have to be cuts. I think cuts should be made on a case by case basis. First, work on combining services and things where waste occurs. Next look at noncritical public services, and outside requests. If the budget picture continues to worsen, that's when we start looking at minor cuts to more critical things. Through this, every attempt would be made to fully fund public safety and critical infrastructure, and maintain current staff.
-- What challenges does COVID-19 pose, and what are your suggested solutions and strategies?
COVID-19, has made things much harder. It’s worsened our economic downturn, and slowed commerce leading to lower revenues. I think smart common-sense measures to keep the spread under control are key, but it’s critical to not get too heavy handed, unless absolutely necessary. Following guidelines set forth by the Wyoming Department of Health is a great start. They are simple steps for people to protect themselves and in turn, others. This has always been a community where we help and take care of each other, and I think if there ever was a time to do that, it is now. As leaders, we don’t want to force people to do things, or to close businesses, so the solution to prevent that, is to encourage folks to be smart and think about exposure and transmission of this disease.
-- How will you make yourself accessible and accountable to the public?
As a councilor, accessibility is something I take seriously. Residents can always call or text me, but also send me messages via Facebook, or even come in to see me at my storefront in the heart of downtown. I'm happy to discuss any issue that residents may face. As far as accountability, it's tied to accessibility. People are welcome to come and talk to me anytime. And if my term is coming due, the ultimate solution if voters can speak and vote someone new into office. I serve the people of Rock Springs, and that is who should hold all elected officials accountable.
Longtime resident and local business owner RJ Pieper has announced his intention to run for the Rock Springs City Council in Ward IV.
“We’re facing unprecedented times in Rock Springs. The road ahead is rocky and it’s clear that our community won’t be able to rely on the same industries and opportunities that have been beneficial to us in the past. That’s why I’m running -- we need fresh ideas that move us beyond the status quo and towards a more positive future,” he said.
Along with his partner Angela, Pieper owns and operates New Studio Photography and Framing, a 100-year-old business, in downtown Rock Springs. In addition to being a small business owner, he has a background in the nonprofit sector and a decade of experience working in the oil and gas industry in the region. Currently, Mr. Pieper servers as a member of the Sweetwater Solid Waste District No. 1 Board of Directors, Wyoming Professional Photographers Association Board of Directors, Community Fine Arts Center Advisory Council, and the Sweetwater County Library Foundation Board of Directors.
“My family has called Rock Springs home for three generations and my wife and I own a business here - I have a real stake in making sure our community is successful. I’m ready, willing, and excited to get to work for the citizens of Ward IV and all of Rock Springs.”