Cheyenne lawyer to seek Fremont County Attorney seat; Republican Party calls for applicants

Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett

By Joshua Scheer, reporter,

(Fremont County, Wyo.) – Lander native and current Cheyenne-based attorney Michael Bennett told that he will be seeking the Fremont County Attorney appointment following Brian Varn’s resignation.

“I’m about as local as you can get,” Bennett said in an interview earlier this week.

Bennett, 39, said his family came to Lander when he was 2 years old. He graduated from Lander Valley High School in 1992. After college and teaching Spanish at the University of Wyoming, he became a student of UW’s law school. He said he graduated from law school and passed the Bar Exam in 2004.

Shortly after, Bennett said he was hired by the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation as a staff attorney. “It was great position,” he said, noting he to work “hand in hand” with law enforcement. He worked on cases and travelled for the department for about 18 months.

Following that position, he worked as a prosecutor for the Albany County Attorney’s Office for about a year and a half. Since 2008, Bennett has operated his own private practice in Cheyenne. He said he primarily focuses on criminal defense work.

When asked if he thought it would be difficulty to switch from defense to prosecution should he be appointed, he didn’t think so. Bennett said if appointed to the seat he would close his private practice and likely transfer many of his ongoing cases to his wife’s private practice. Bennett said he would intend to run for re-election in 2014 should he received the position.

When he heard about Varn’s resignation, he knew he’d be interested in coming back to Fremont County. “Very rarely do you get to go back to your home town,” Bennett said. He called it an opportunity to give back to the entire Fremont County community. Bennett said he spent some time in Riverton as a student at Central Wyoming College and his parents live on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Bennett doesn’t believe that Fremont County presents any criminal challenges that aren’t present in other counties. He believes the types of crimes seen here are universal to other areas.

“The challenge will be to listen to the community,” he continued, noting that it will be important to keep residents’ rights and safety in mind.

Bennett said he had been “reading up” on the things Varn has done through his tenure. He called the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which has started a day reporting center to help keep juveniles out of jail, “tremendous.”

“I’m very excited to see what that entails,” Bennett said.

“One of the interesting things (Varn’s) tried is to go to a paperless office,” he continued.

Bennett said he knows people at large firms that have made the transition as well, and he said he could tap into their knowledge to help move the initiative along. If the county can save money by using less paper, that’s part of being fiscally responsible, he noted.

While he has no ideas of things he would want to come in and change within the office, Bennett said there’s always room for improvement.

Call for applicants:

According to a news release from the Fremont County Republican Party, applicants for the position are being sought.

“Any interested person who is qualified and is a registered Republican may submit their name for consideration,” states the release. “Letters will be accepted through Wednesday February 13, 2013. They should be mailed to Fremont County Republican Party, John Birbari, Chairman, 209 Peaks Rd, Lander WY 82520 The letter should include full name, address, phone, e-mail address, and a resume.”

The party is scheduled to discuss recommending three names to the Fremont County Commission at 7 p.m. on Feb. 13, in the district courtroom at the Fremont County Courthouse in Lander. Interviews with applicants will be conducted at that meeting.