Washakie Trumps Trump in Town Hall

By on June 9, 2017

When a picture really is worth a thousand words.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – For those stunned at America’s mounting political maelstrom, perhaps a small symbolic gesture will temporarily alleviate the pain. Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon and Vice Mayor Jim Stanford, for their part, redecorated town digs. On Monday they removed the photos of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence from the walls of town hall. In Trump’s and Pence’s stead hangs an image of a dauntless warrior and diplomatic leader: Wyoming’s Shoshone Chief Washakie.

Their motive, Muldoon said, was simple: Trump’s policies clash with community values. They banished the presidential portraits the same day town council unanimously approved a resolution vowing to uphold the goals of the Paris climate accord. The council’s decision met widespread public approval in a place where the economy hinges on the health of the environment.

Although folks are accustomed to seeing images of the president and vice president in federal government buildings, Muldoon says there’s really no reason for them to claim space in a town building. “There’s no requirement to have a picture of the president displayed at town hall,” he said. “It’s considered an honor that must be earned.”

“And I think that when we honor someone,” he continued, “who has no respect for the truth, celebrates ignorance, insults and threatens valued members of our community, seeks to destroy our national institutions rather than improve them, has no respect for the rule of law, and who treats the people’s government as just another business to defraud … we are sending a message that runs counter to the values of our community.”

He likened viewing Trump’s portrait to staring down the image of an infamous American fraudster. “If I was the CEO of an investment firm, I wouldn’t have a portrait of Bernie Madoff in the lobby,” Muldoon said. “And as your mayor, I’m not going to have a portrait of Donald Trump adorning the place where dedicated, knowledgeable, hardworking, and amazing town employees serve the public.”

Stanford, who proposed Washakie as a sterling replacement, said it’s not uncommon for local electeds to spruce up their environs. “[Former] Mayor Flitner did some redecorating. She put up some nice historical photos in the town chambers … I thought, why not honor the Shoshone Chief?”

The vice mayor is no stranger to the experiences of the Shoshone people and the legacy Washakie left behind. He has spent time on the Wind River Reservation and even guided one of Washakie’s great grandsons down the river. When discussing Washakie’s admirable qualities, Stanford likes to highlight his stewardship: “The Chief told his people, ‘If you take care of this land, it will always take care of you.’ Those are words we should live by, especially now in this political climate.”

How presidential portraits first made their faces onto Jackson’s town walls remains a mystery, Stanford said. A member of the town council since 2012, he doesn’t know who hung Barack Obama’s mug when he was president, or Trump’s for that matter. But he says neither has a place there. In fact, Jackson politicos have a history of “bucking the federal government.”

“You wouldn’t have seen Mayor Harry Clissold putting up an image of FDR.”

Ultimately, people both terrified and delighted by Trump’s dog and pony show might agree on one notion: “It’s good to keep the chambers non-partisan,” Stanford said. “Town hall should be a haven where citizens of all backgrounds can come together and talk about issues of local concern.”

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine and former editor of Planet Jackson Hole. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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