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Staff Snapshots | Don Richards

October 13, 2022

Hometown: Lovell, Wyo.

Role: Budget and Fiscal Administrator, Wyoming Legislature

Years of legislative service: 20 years, over three stints

“As the least-populated of these United States, Wyoming is uniquely positioned to innovate. … Wyoming’s small population also forces a nimble, flexible response to efficiently deliver public services.”

Why did you choose to work at the Legislature?

I have been hired three separate times by the Wyoming Legislative Service Office. In all cases, the people served as the primary draw to employment with the Legislature. Unquestionably, the meaningful work, variety of tasks and opportunity to have a front-row seat in the development of public policy, as state legislatures often serve as the incubators of innovation, are fulfilling as well. Nonetheless, working for legislators and with my colleagues, having a shared commitment to a task, and contributing to a mutual goal of serving and supporting the Legislature surpasses other inducements.

What skill or talent are you most proud of?

Being able to relay complex concepts either succinctly or through the use of common metaphors, examples or representations is a real skill. I often miss the mark, but when successful, staff can paint a scene through words that improves understanding and allows policymakers to tackle challenging policies (like developing a biennial budget) quickly and clearly.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

I have benefited from my predecessors’ guidance to “prepare and be patient.” Not unlike the enormous impact the seasons have on Wyoming’s agrarian economy, developing, modifying, reassessing and resolving public policy is both cyclical and iterative. Timing is crucial, as is a healthy dose of patience.

Who or what inspires you?

George Washington noted, “The establishment of our new Government seemed to be the last great experiment for promoting human happiness.” This, and variations of this theme, serve as inspiration each day. It recognizes that democracy itself is an experiment. I find it incredibly aspirational to expand successful approaches, to fix prior missteps, and to staff those who strive to make the government that ensures liberty and promotes well-being more perfect.

What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?

Legislative staff have more accessible content, data, analyses, opinion and information than any of our predecessors. The time-consuming challenge is distilling the information. To reduce this time sink, I find real value in the daily, weekly and quarterly notes from investment professionals. From revenue forecasting to observations and insights on politics and public policy, strategists in the financial services and investment industry are incentivized to be accurate and forward-thinking, as opposed to many more traditional media outlets. Strategists in the investment sector operate in a competitive arena which rewards quality and accuracy. As such, I allocate an outsize portion of my reading to notes, analyses and observations from investment houses. One of the best: Michael Cembalest, J.P. Morgan.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

For its “Staff Snapshots” series, State Legislatures News is asking legislative staff about their role in the legislature. To suggest a staffer for this series, please use the email icon above to contact Holly South.

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