TORRINGTON – After 23 years of serving the city of Torrington, Mayor Randy Adams chose to retire this year. Throughout the years, Adams has been a teacher and coach for the Goshen County Schools and has held many different positions to serve the community. Some of those positions include mayor, city council member, program director for the Wyoming Family Literacy and president and CEO of Leadership Training Services.
Adams was born in western Nebraska and grew up on a farm near Potter, Nebraska. He graduated from Potter High School in May of 1965 and then went to the University of Wyoming (UW). He did four and a half years at UW and during that time he got married to his wife Barb in 1969. In the fall of 1970, Adams graduated with a degree in secondary education.
“My very first job after graduating from college was midnight to eight at the Holly Sugar Factory stacking sugar,” Adams told the Telegram. “I only had to do that for three days because then I got a phone call from the Longmont School District wondering if I would interview and I said absolutely.”
Adams said he worked in Longmont for three and a half years before he accepted a job with Torrington Junior High.
Adams and his wife raised two children in Torrington, Joel and James. Joel is now located in Gillette with two sons of his own, and James is here in Torrington with one son.
Adams was the history and civics teacher at the Torrington Middle School from 1973 to 2008. He coached football, boys’ and girls’ basketball, track and baseball. In the summers, Adams worked as a carpenter, plumber, farmer, and at the Fort Laramie National Park. He also served as the speaker for the Wyoming Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau from 1984 through 2005.
“During that time, I also operated my own farm,” Adams said. “I still have the farm; I just don’t do the physical part of it anymore. My brother runs most of what’s there now.”
At Fort Laramie, Adams was a seasonal historical interpreter from 1975 to 1977 and a part-time park ranger from 1977 to 1981. He also served as the president of the Fort Laramie Historical Association from 2010 to 2015.
Adams helped research and write books, magazine articles and special projects for the UW, the Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming State Parks, the Dangberg Foundation, Johnson Publishing Co. and The Landhandler from 1984 to 2008.
Adams retired for the first time from the Torrington Middle School in May of 2008 for three short months. At that time, he became the program director of the Wyoming Family Literacy Project until 2012 when he retired again.
“Then in about 2012, I became the president and CEO of Leadership and Training Services,” Adams continued. “Leadership and Training Services work with Wyoming associations and municipalities. We train and provide leadership training and so on for mayors and council members who are newly elected. So, when they come into that position, they have some idea what’s going on.”
In March 2018, Adams resigned from that role to run for mayor.
Serving the City
When asked what led him to decide to serve on the council, Adams said, “My field has always been history, political science and so on. I’ve always taught government, civics, American history and Wyoming history. It was a natural thing for me to do, I think, after teaching. My grandfather was mayor of his community way back when and gave me a good example. Also, I have a lot of relatives who did all kinds of public service things.”
Among his other work, Adams was a city council member from 2000 to January 2019. He was elected as mayor in 2018.
“I got a little experience becoming a councilman before becoming mayor, which really helped,” Adams recalled. “Plus, I got to follow Mike Varney, who had done it three terms. I got to follow him and see how things were done. I was Mayor Pro Term for him for probably the last six, maybe eight months or so. So, I got to get some experience before I became mayor.”
His term as mayor ends in January 2023. He has served the city of Torrington for a total of 23 years.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the people,” Adams said. “When I was first a councilman, I didn’t know anything. I thought I did, but obviously, I didn’t. It’s been a learning experience and a growing experience. Just a matter of gaining information, gaining knowledge and expanding what I know.”
Adams has also served on the Wyoming Association of Municipalities board of directors and currently serves on the National League of Cities public safety and crime prevention steering committee and the National League of Cities small cities council/steering committee. In 2018, Adams was elected as a member of the board of trustees for Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) and is currently on the board.
Mayor of Torrington
“My first official act as mayor happened two days before I was officially mayor, and it was firing Greg Knudsen,” Adams recalled. “I knew way too much about him. I told my attorney, “He’s not going to be my municipal judge, so, figure it out.” Then I went over to his office and told him that he would no longer be serving as the municipal judge.”
Adams’ next act was to appoint Judge Nathaniel Hibben, who served as the municipal judge until he was elevated to the circuit court judge by Governor Mark Gordon. Judge John Patrick was then appointed to the position.
“I’ve had the opportunity to improve municipal courts and all of that, and I’m pretty proud of that,” Adams continued. “I have also, unfortunately, had to fire a chief of police but was able to hire the chief of police we have right now. He is a great guy, perfect for the job! He’s ethical, practical and smart, all qualities you would want in a chief of police.”
Moving on, Adams said when he became mayor, he was the supervisor of the city’s water and wastewater, streets and sanitation and the electrical department, along with other departments. In order, to have someone more qualified for the position, Adams appointed an engineer as the “director of public works.” Now the mayor is the supervisor of the police, fire, ambulance and engineering departments, director of public works, clerk-treasurer, museum and the pool.
“One of the surprises I had when I became mayor, was how much personal concern that comes up,” Adams reflected. “It seems like at least once a week, sometimes more, somebody comes into the office. Mostly what I do is listen and give advice. I just was not aware there would be that much of it. It’s been very rewarding. It’s helped a lot of situations. I’m glad to do it, I just didn’t know it was coming.”
Throughout Adams’ time as mayor, he has been able to present the Community Hero Awards to six deserving individuals and one deserving group. The award was given to Abe Correa for his work with area youth in the Torrington Little League program; Tom John McCreery for his work with seniors in need; Rick and Marilyn Cotant for developing the school’s backpack program; Bud Watson for his work with Gracie’s Promise and critically ill children; Kyle Borger for developing Wyo-Help and then expanding it throughout the region; Teri Shinost for her career-long work at Waggin’ Tails animal shelter; and for the staff and volunteers at Goshen County Public Health for their unwavering efforts in the face of adversity during the COVID pandemic.
“These were remarkably rewarding for me,” Adams said. “The community responded with numerous positive comments. They gave a very personal touch to the city council meetings and those volunteers and heroes were recognized for their efforts.”
When asked about the most challenging times during his term, Adams said, “My second month of being mayor, Western Sugar laid off 90 part-time employees. Then two months after that, they closed the sugar factory completely and essentially laid off another 200, or so, full-time employees. It was a huge economic punch in the gut to the city and it was incredibly challenging.”
However, that was just the beginning. Adams said going forward the Union Pacific engineering shops in Morrill, Nebraska closed and laid off about 40 employees. Some of these employees were Torrington residents. Then about a year later the BNSF diesel pit closed in Guernsey. Many of these employees were laid off, and the ones who weren’t had to transfer to yards in other states.
“So, all of those economic things in the first year or two were really a challenge,” Adams continued. “Then towards the end of that, came COVID.”
He said it was a tough time. They had to evolve new ways of doing things and discuss state mandates and restrictions.
All in all, Adams said his key to professional success as mayor was, “Shut your mouth. Really listen to what the problems are that people have. Don’t rush into judgment. Keep your personal feelings out of it, and keep in mind that every decision has to be what’s best for the city of Torrington.”
Adams also said, “Respond to every person who comes to the door, don’t ever avoid a confrontation. I did not ever refuse to speak to somebody. I believe that if you’re going to be the mayor, the people want to know you, or they have a complaint or they’re angry and need to have somebody to talk to.”
This will be Adams’ fifth retirement.
“I’m ready (for retirement), but I’m really going to miss the adventure, the unknown, the surprises that come in every day, all those kinds of things,” Adams told the Telegram. “My wife is ready. She’s been counting the days for about six months, but I refuse to do that. I knew that getting to this point was going to be hard. I’ve never been without a job before. Usually, I’ve had two or three jobs at the same time with things overlapping. I’m a little uncomfortable with it.”
Reflecting on his time as mayor, Adams said, “It’s been a good four years. For the first two and a half to three years, I would go home and sit in my chair and fall asleep. I would be just wiped out from the stress and demands of the job, but it got better. It’s a harder job than I expected, but it was okay. I liked it. I liked being busy.”
Comments to Others
“We have a great staff,” Adams told the Telegram. “They are so skilled, well trained, and so dedicated to what they’re doing. I’ve never heard them complain about the jobs they have to do. They do their job even in the face of abuse.”
Adams continued, “We have a clerk-treasurer who is overworked but is incredibly skilled and qualified to do her job. She does the budget every year and keeps the city in the black regardless of the economy. She operates in a conservative way; she’s remarkable. My deputy treasurer and deputy clerk are excellent. My administrative assistant is excellent. Everybody here, the heads of all the departments work above and beyond what’s expected. They’re great people.”
To the new mayor and city council members, Adams said, “Good luck. I expect that things will go well. The community elected smart people. People who are concerned about the community. I expect things to go very well. I’ve had the chance to speak with Herb Doby and he’s very interested in the role of mayor. He’s interested in the issues of the staff and people. He’s a very community-minded guy.”