Interview #8: Riverton, WY City Administrator Steven Weaver

A city council meeting is like the Situation Room. The mayor is commander-in-chief. The council members are like the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And the city administrator? He’s the top general who carries out the orders.

In Riverton, Wyoming, that job belongs to Steven Weaver. Previously, he was the city manager of Carlton, Oregon. We talked about being caught off guard, how cameras affect people, and–because it’s Wyoming–guns.

Q: Is it fair to say you know more about how the city works than the city council members do?

A: Yes.

Q: Has any of them ever asked you something about the city and you thought, “oh, my god. How do YOU not know this?”

A: That happens fairly often where you just have an odd question that comes up or someone stands up under citizens’ comments and brings up something that catches you off guard. Or the worst ones are where you didn’t really hear the question because you weren’t completely engaged at the time.

Q: Are you telling me…that you’re not listening to EVERY WORD of what’s happening?!

A: [Laughs] Sometimes they ask the question and it doesn’t really register and you’ve got that deer-in-the-headlights look.

Q: Well, luckily the camera has a delay. So as long as you shake it off in a couple of seconds, all three people watching at home won’t see you looking bewildered.

A: It’s funny because before I got here…so the council member closest to where I sit, they had their iPad up. And [the cameras] actually picked up that the council member was checking scores on baseball games in the meeting. In the meeting!

weaver
Riverton, WY city administrator Steven Weaver

Q: Do people behave differently when there’s a camera?

A: That makes the meetings completely different. I was in Oregon before I came here. We didn’t have cameras on. Sometimes you have people that sit there and do dramatic things in front of the camera. And when you don’t have the cameras, you don’t have any of that going on.

Q: Have you changed how you act, going from no cameras to a city with cameras?

A: Yes, I have. If the media wasn’t there, you can be a little more blunt. But when you’re on camera you can’t do that.

Q: Do council members ever come to your defense if someone attacks you?

A: You know, oftentimes not.

Q: Ouch.

A: One time I was in Oregon and the mayor said, “you will not speak to our staff that way.” And everyone was at the meeting applauding her for doing that. I think staff wishes that sometimes the council would stand up for them and say, “what you’re saying is completely inappropriate.”

Q: Now, because it’s Wyoming, I gotta ask: has anyone brought a gun to a meeting?

A: You’re right–in a council meeting they can bring guns. I told council members that on really hot topics, they can bring their guns and lay them right on their dais as people are standing and talking to them. It’d be completely legal.

Q: Wait, did you tell them this as a fun fact? Or did someone come up to you and say, “Steve! I need to have a gun at the council meeting. Don’t ask me why.”

A: It was more fun fact.

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