CHEYENNE – Brian Kozak will be the next Laramie County sheriff.
The Republican, who recently headed the Cheyenne Police Department, received 13,958 votes, or close to 47% of the total. Independent Jeff Barnes, a former deputy with the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office, received 11,889 votes, or almost 40%.
Democrat Jess Fresquez trailed with 3,862 votes, or just under 13%.
Speaking with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle shortly after in-person and early absentee ballot results were posted, Kozak said: “I feel good. Hard work’s paid off.”
A Kozak victory will come with a change in top leadership positions within the sheriff’s office, the candidate said in an interview Tuesday night. This will include changes to the undersheriff, captains and administrative staff.
“I’ll be looking at replacing them because, obviously, things have gone seriously wrong within the sheriff’s office – the morale, the culture is poor,” he said. “We can’t continue with the same type of leadership. That’s why I want to bring in fresh leadership, really positive people.”
That doesn’t mean he’ll completely oust these current leaders from the agency, Kozak said, but instead will “find other positions for them.”
Kozak was the longest-serving leader of CPD, holding the position for 11 years. He was ousted following the 2020 election of current Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins. Kozak almost immediately began floating a run for sheriff.
Kozak won the Republican primary Aug. 16 to become the GOP nominee, beating out current jail Capt. Don Hollingshead and CPD veteran Boyd Wrede.
Hollingshead and Wrede both announced in September that they were throwing their support behind Barnes, rather than their fellow Republican.
Kozak said in a statement of his own that it was “unfortunate” the two were “not supporting the Republican nominee. The last thing we need is more divisiveness.”
However, Kozak said he wasn’t surprised by this.
“I saw alliances form when I announced I would not retain the current leaders who were responsible for the state of collapse the Sheriff’s Office is currently in,” he said in the statement.
In a June news release, Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee said Barnes was the first independent candidate for a county office, to her knowledge, to successfully gather enough signatures to be put on a general election ballot. Barnes was required to collect 892 signatures of Laramie County electors.
Barnes said he chose to run as an Independent because he believes the office should be nonpartisan.
Speaking to the WTE Tuesday evening before any results were in, Barnes said he and his campaign were “cautiously optimistic” about the results. But should he lose, he said, “I don’t think there’s any single thing else that we could have possibly done to win the race.”
Current Laramie County Sheriff Danny Glick announced last summer that he would not seek re-election after nearly 20 years in the position and 40 years total with the sheriff’s office.
All results are unofficial until they are certified by the county canvassing board at 2 p.m. Friday.
Republican Sylvia Hackl, who was uncontested in her race for Laramie County district attorney, received 24,998 votes, or 98% of the total. The remainder were write-ins.
Hackl defeated fellow Republican Tom Callison in the August primary.
During the primary campaign, Hackl emphasized her years of management experience, including leadership experience working in the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, and in leading the Wyoming State Public Defender’s Office for six years. She’s said she was able to turn around the over-budget, understaffed office, and that she’d do the same with the DA’s office.
Following her primary win in August, Hackl told the WTE that “the task ahead seems daunting,” but that she feels she’s well-equipped for the role.
She said at the time that, should she win the general election, she plans to “clarify with the state budget (office) and personnel people exactly what positions are available” and fill them “very, very, very quickly.”
She said she would also meet with current staff and get to know what their needs are, as well as meet with the county’s judges.
The goal is to have a full staff on day one of her tenure in January to “immediately begin addressing caseload problems,” Hackl said.
Embattled DA Leigh Anne Manlove did not run for re-election. Manlove was elected to the position in November 2018.
Earlier this year, a Wyoming State Bar panel recommended she be disbarred for not running her office properly and misuse of prosecutorial discretion. The Wyoming Supreme Court may soon decide if Manlove should face sanctions, up to possibly losing her law license.
Three incumbent Laramie County commissioners retained their seats in Tuesday’s general election. Linda Heath, Gunnar Malm and Troy Thompson defeated four fellow Republicans in the primary.
Thompson, the current chair of the county board, had the largest share of in-person and early absentee votes with 21,170, or 33%. Malm came in just behind him at 21,046 votes, or nearly 33%, and Heath earned 20,104, or 31% of the vote.
There were no other candidates on the ballot for Board of Commissioners.
Malm will serve his second term on the Board of Commissioners. He also serves as the public policy chair for the Wyoming Association of Realtors, the president of the Cheyenne Board of Realtors and is vice chair of the Cheyenne Planning Commission.
Thompson was first elected as a commissioner in 2010. Thompson is also a member of the National Association of County Officials and serves on the executive board of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association.
Heath, former vice-chair of the Laramie County Republican Party, has served on the commission since 2014. She spent 27 years as a precinct committee member.
All three Cheyenne City Council incumbents up for re-election won handily Tuesday.
Ward 1 incumbent Scott Roybal beat out challenger Cameron Karajanis, with Roybal receiving 2,693 votes to Karajanis’ 1,856. Roybal came in at 58.5% of the vote, versus Karajanis’ 40%.
Roybal was first elected in 1996 and served until 2000. He then ran for re-election in 2014 and has served ever since. He is currently the council president.
Incumbent Mark Rinne defeated Lynn Storey-Huylar to retain his Ward 2 seat. Rinne received 4,269 votes to Storey-Huylar’s 3,099. About 58% of voters chose Rinne, while 42% chose Storey-Huylar.
Rinne is the longest tenured member of the City Council, having served six terms representing Ward 2 and as council president nine times. He is a local dentist.
In Ward 3, incumbent Ken Esquibel received 2,765 votes, or nearly 59% of the vote total. Challenger Joe Shogrin came up short with 1,885 votes, accounting for 40%.
Esquibel previously served in the 41st district of the Wyoming House of Representatives from 2007-17. He was first elected to City Council in November 2018.