Northern Wyoming News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Senator Gerald Geis retires after 35 years of service


January 13, 2017

Sen. Gerald Geis. R-Worland, listens to debate during the afternoon session of the 62nd Wyoming Legislature at the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne, Wyo. Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Geis did not seek re-election last year and retired from the State Senate after 35 years of service.

WORLAND - Former Wyoming Senator Gerald Geis has retired after 35 years of service and handed the mantle over to Wyatt Agar from Thermopolis.

"I'm 83 years old and I think that it's time to turn it over to the younger generation," Geis stated. "I wish my new senator well and I hope that he got a good mentor to guide him because I couldn't stay forever. He will learn the same as I did. There is a lot of give and take down there if you are going to be a good senator or House member. You need to listen to your constituents. Sometimes you really don't want to vote for that bill but the majority of your constituents say that's what we want and you have to honor that some or you won't be down there very long," he added.

Geis was born three miles south of Ten Sleep in a three-room log cabin with no water or electricity. He went to Ten Sleep School through the fifth grade before moving to Worland in March 1944. He graduated from Worland High School in 1951.

"The teachers decided to be nice and let me graduate," Geis said. "A lot of people saw a lot more in me then I saw in myself," he added.

People seeing a lot in Geis is what actually led to him becoming a senator. He never dreamed of becoming a senator but the Republican Party did. "It wasn't my idea. My wife, Irma and I were at the Wyoming Truckers Convention in Cody, in 1974 and some of the big powerhouses of the Republican Party picked us up at that convention and never let us out of their sight. So I told Irma that they don't just pick a couple of kids like us up just because we are nice kids, there is something coming. Well about two weeks later we were home and Mr. D. Benson approached me and said, 'Gerry, you're going to be the next senator out of Hot Springs, Washakie County.' I said, 'No, you're kidding yourself. What the heck, I've got kids in school and all that stuff.' Well after the fourth hammer lock, I said, 'I guess I am.' And that's how I got started," Geis explained.

Geis served for 12 years before leaving to run for Secretary of State in 1986 losing in the primary by 62 votes.

But being a senator was Geis's destiny because in 1993 he was reappointed back in the Senate when Senator Rankin became ill. "That's when Big Horn County, Hot Springs County and Washakie County, the Republican parties had to pick three names. Then after they picked three names, there was Forrest Clay, Mike Baker and myself, and I was the lowest guy on the totem pole, I just barely squeezed in as number three from the Republican Party. Then the three counties, their commissioners met and they appointed me over the other two, that's how I got back in," Geis said.

Geis was put on the Appropriations Committee, of which he served eight years on, his first year as a senator. He stated that at that time the Appropriations Committee was called the Ways and Means Committee because not only was the committee responsible for appropriating the money but also finding the money to appropriate.

In 1981 Geis served as president of the Appropriations Committee and vice president of the Senate. In 1983 he was the majority floor leader and in 1985 and 1986 he was president of the Senate.

In 35 years of being a senator, serving under five governors and eight presidents, many bills passed and failed but the most memorable bill was in 1976. "One of my first bills is when we created the senior citizen centers in 1976. That was my second year down there (Cheyenne)," Geis stated.

Helping make sure that Wyoming residents had good water was important to Geis and he proudly served as chairman for many years for theSelect Water Committee that works with Wyoming Water Development Commission. "I don't know how many years I served as chairman of it but our first big water project was the one out of Buffalo Bill, that regional water project was in 1981 where we put water through Cody, Powell, Frannie, Deaver, Lovell, Cowley and all points in-between," Geis stated.

The Wyoming Water Development Commission also helped put in the big pipeline from the big well to Worland in the early 1980s and in 1993 began putting in a system that covered all of the south Big Horn Basin, which took in Greybull, Basin, Manderson, Worland and all the rural areas which was completed a couple years ago, Geis said.

Geis said he also helped fight off the state wanting to sell the Pioneer Home in Thermopolis and the Wyoming Retirement Center in Basin. "Because we are going to pay for those people and if we have to send them out of state or somewhere we are going to pay a lot more than what it does to keep those two institutions running. We've got to have them," he said.

Becoming a senator is something that Geis has never regretted. "I enjoy people and I love Wyoming, so I wanted to do the best I could to protect what we have here in Wyoming. I know the state of Wyoming like the back of my hand because I hauled livestock for 51 years and worked 10 years road construction, so there is very little of Wyoming that I haven't seen or know about," Geis stated. "I probably will miss it, I'm not going to lie to you, I enjoy people, I enjoyed chairing committees, I enjoyed most of it. Even when it was tough debating it was OK with me, my ideas against someone else's," he added.

Retirement will see Geis playing pinochle, having coffee at the senior center, going to Maggie's restaurant and visiting people in the nursing home. But his days as a public figure may not be over. "Something will come up. If they offer me a commission on some commission I would probably serve on it, like the Wyoming Water Development Commission or the WYDOT commission or some of those," Geis said.


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