The newest member of the Wyoming House of Representatives has had a passion for Wyoming since his teenage years.
Rep. Mark Kinner (R-Sheridan) was born in Connecticut, and as a teenager he vacationed with his family in Yellowstone and the Snowy Range.
Those experiences, plus work on a dairy farm and a local Nature Conservancy preserve made him realize that, “I didn’t feel like I belonged on the East coast,” he said. “I knew I needed to go to college in the West in the Rocky Mountains.”
The course of his life shifted when he was accepted to the University of Wyoming. As a student there, he gave such glowing descriptions of the state that two of his brothers and his parents soon followed him to Wyoming in what he called, “a modern-day wagon train.”
A 1975 UW graduate, Kinner married a Lusk High School graduate, Tibbee, who grew up in the small towns of Farson, Ten Sleep, Pinedale, and Wamsutter while moving around with her schoolteacher parents.
He spent much of his 40-year career at First Interstate Bank in Sheridan, where he started out giving commercial loans to small businesses. He will retire as bank president later this year to devote more time to legislative work.
Serving the state has been one of Kinner’s dreams since he participated in Leadership Wyoming in 2005. At that time he was inspired by a quote that charges leaders to “[enhance] conditions for those we may never know, for a time we may never see.”
“That has sort of been my marching orders since then,” he said.
Earlier this year Sheridan County Commissioners appointed him to the seat left vacant by the death of Rep. John Patton (R-Sheridan). “That’s bittersweet because John was a friend, but he would want us to march on,” Kinner said.
When Kinner heard the call for candidates to fill late Rep. Patton’s seat, he announced his impending retirement, and walked his letter of interest down to the courthouse on a Wednesday. The following Monday county commissioners appointed him after what he called “a five-day campaign.”
“I’m going to recommend that all political campaigns from now on be five days,” Kinner joked. “I see all the national campaigns and the billions they are spending…. I like my idea better.”
The appointment follows on Kinner’s work as chairman of the Sheridan College Board of Trustees, Sheridan Community Land Trust, and the Forward Sheridan economic development organization. He also serves on the board of the Homer and Mildred Scott Foundation, established by the family that founded the First Interstate Bank.
“The reason I came to work here was the Homer Scott philosophy; that if you build your community, the bank will prosper as well,” Kinner said.
That philosophy led him to work with the Sheridan Land Trust to preserve agricultural land and quality of life, while balancing that with economic development work at Forward Sheridan.
In the House, Kinner takes up assignments on the Education and Revenue Committees. He hopes he can apply his experiences from the Sheridan College board to working on the education committee. He’s also keeping a close eye on the budget. He attended the Joint Appropriations Committee’s June meeting in preparation for the 2016 budget session.
While Kinner has long wanted to serve in the Legislature, he said he doesn’t think of himself as a politician. “We need to think about things from all different angles and come to the best decision,” he said.