Scarsdale Alumnus runs for Congress
by Gary Trauner ‘76
I remember watching John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession on a black and white TV set in my parent’s bedroom when I was 5 years old. Somehow, that memory has always stuck with me, and the sadness that the entire country seemed to feel for this one person who was more than just a politician. As I grew up, discussing issues of the day was a regular occurrence at my house, and with 3 boys and involved parents, the dinner table discussion was always lively. Professionally, I pursued a path of business and finance, but my interest in public policy never waned. As a friend of my parents said to me after I announced my candidacy in 2006,” Gary , I knew you were going to do this when your were 10 years old…”. Of course, in high school, I think it was Werner Feig (along with Mr. Rothschild) who planted the final seeds that finally blossomed into entering politics. They took American History and made it come alive in a way that I’ve never heard (or seen) before or since, and they made me realize that people can make a difference – we just never know who it will be and when it will happen.
I’ve been involved in business and finance for 25 years, starting small companies for the past 15 or so. I’ve always been interested in public policy, especially at the national level. After I moved to Jackson Hole, I slowly started to dip my toes in to the waters of public service, first running for a local position on a Water & Sewer Board – that may sound pretty boring, but development in Jackson Hole is a HUGE issue, and the ability to deliver water and sewer services in a critical and necessary component for any development. As my children grew older and entered school, I decided to run for School Board, perhaps the most difficult elected position for anyone at any level. As I found out after the fact, the conventional wisdom goes something like, “…never launch a political career from school board or jail.” I ran in a strongly contested election and won one of 3 seats from among 9 candidates. The School District in Teton County was in disarray when I and my other fellow new board members took office, and within several months of my election, I became the Chair of the Board. We made some hard choices and took some tough actions, and within a short period of time we had turned things around and regained the trust of the community. It was during this time that I realized that not only is it possible to effect change, but I truly enjoyed doing it. So why not do it at the level where my interest truly lay – at the national level.
Wyoming is the least populated state in the nation, and it covers nearly 100,000 square miles. We have only one member of the US House of Representatives for the entire State; in essence, it is no different running for US House in Wyoming than it is running for US Senate. When I first decided to run, I had no clue about the magnitude of the effort that was involved. Again, looking back, that was probably a good thing. My experience at starting new companies (which is what I do when I’m not trying to change the world) helped my immensely in putting together and running a campaign organization – it is very similar to building a small company that has a limited lifespan. Of course, there is much to learn in politics, too much for this article. As I enter into my second run, we will try to take the lessons and experience we gained from the first run and put it into practice this go ‘round. The most important knowledge I took away from my first run for major political office is that it is really easier than people think. Yeah, the pressure is relentless and by the end, I was as bone-tired as I’d ever been in my life. Putting 60,000 miles on my car driving around the 9th largest state in the country didn’t help. But by being true to myself and speaking from the heart, in some ways made this the easiest thing I ever did. Not only that, but people responded. At the beginning of my quest, my name recognition in Wyoming was 3%, and no one gave me a shot in he**. Of course, I’ve never been a fan of “conventional wisdom”, and by the end, we finished in a virtual dead-heat, one of the closest races in the country.
I have yet to achieve my main goal of being elected to Congress to represent the entire state of Wyoming . However, it is clear to me that we’ve already made an impact; It isn’t just that we lost by only 1,000 votes against a 6-term incumbent in a State that hasn’t elected a Democrat in congress for over 30 years. It’s that we’ve given hope to thousands of people across Wyoming who have not been happy with their representation, and we’ve helped thousands of people to become involved in determining the future of their lives.
Gary Trauner with his wife, Terry, and two sons, Ben and Aaron
I guess I didn’t realize how hungry people are for leaders who will talk straight, pay attention and simply let them know they matter. Truth be told, my level of hope has been lifted after my last campaign, and I am excited about what the future may hold.
I am back on the east cost for 2 fundraisers this next week – March 11 in Boston and March 13 at the home of Don Zacharia of Zachy’s fame in Scarsdale. I’d love to see old faces and get the support of fellow Scarsdalians who want to see someone in DC who’ll “do the right thing” regardless of party or politics. Interested folks can e-mail[email protected] for more information.