CHEYENNE –State Treasurer Joseph B. (Joe) Meyer, 71, passed away October 6, 2012 in Cheyenne with his family by his side. Joe was in his second term as Wyoming State Treasurer having been re-elected to that position in 2010.
Upon hearing about Joe’s passing, Governor Matt Mead said, “This is a tremendous loss for all of Wyoming. Carol and I send our deepest condolences to Joe’s wife Mary and their children. Joe cared deeply about this state and its people and always put Wyoming first. His legacy of service is unmatched. He will be remembered for his wisdom and his wit. I feel most fortunate to have had his counsel and friendship.”
Joe’s reach went far beyond the borders of Wyoming and thoughts were expressed by longtime friend Vice President Dick Cheney.
“Joe was my great friend,” said the Vice President. “The two of us were dear friends for over fifty years, and had so many shared memories that it is hard to think of the world without him. He was a friend to be proud of, one of the finest public officials ever to serve the people of Wyoming. I know of no one who knew more about the workings of government than Joe. He put his knowledge to work for the benefit of our state, and he shared it generously. If you had a question, he had the answer, and no matter how busy he was, he would sit down with you and explain itand make the process enjoyable, too. The nation and our state were better because of Joe Meyer.”
Throughout his life, Joe made a significant contribution to his native state and was recently honored for his 40 years of service to the state of Wyoming by Governor Mead. During those 40 years, Joe served as State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Government Affairs and Communications Assistant to the President of the University of Wyoming and Assistant Director of the Legislative Service Office. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, Joe used his education and talents to better his community and state and was honored as a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Wyoming in 2012 for his outstanding achievements.
Said Governor Dave Freudenthal, “Joe had the greatest public service record in recent history. He was a lifetime friend of Nancy and me and a lifelong friend of Wyoming. He will be sorely missed.”
Joe received his Bachelors degree in Mathematics/Chemistry from the University of Wyoming in 1963 and went on to obtain his Juris Doctorate degree from the UW Law School in 1967. He married Sheridan native Mary Orr in his second year of law school and the couple moved to Lander, Wyoming after graduation. There he served as Fremont County deputy county attorney and later was a practicing attorney in Lander at the Smith and Meyer Law Firm.
Joe’s call to public service quickly consumed his life. In 1971 he was recruited to be the assistant director of the newly created Legislative Service Office in Cheyenne. Working with LSO Director Ralph Thomas, they developed a consistent legislative process that has been in place for 41 years. Joe’s accomplishments while at the LSO included modifying programs to prevent the financial failure of the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Fund.
In 1987, Governor Mike Sullivan appointed Joe Wyoming Attorney General. He served in that position more than eight years and remains the longest serving AG in Wyoming's history. During his two terms, he argued several cases before the Wyoming Supreme Court, including the school finance case in 1994. Besides his impact at the state level, he was lead attorney for the 50 state attorneys general on Indian gambling and taxation issues and frequently, on western water law consultations and negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“Joe Meyer was a true son of Wyoming,” said Governor Sullivan. “As my Attorney General he provided me with support, friendship and representation as he did for the people of the state with extraordinary confidence and judgment. During his entire career he and his wife Mary served the people of Wyoming with common sense, good judgment and good humor. His passing leaves a large void in state government he loved and served so well.”
After his tenure as Attorney General, Joe returned to his alma mater as Government Affairs and Communications Assistant to the President of the University of Wyoming. There he worked with legislators and other UW administrators and faculty to obtain more funding and to improve and expand the physical plant.
Joe entered his elective political life in May of 1998 when he filed for office in the open-seat race for Secretary of State. Joe enjoyed the campaign trail because it allowed him to re-connect with friends, old and new, throughout Wyoming. He was also known to throw a few side trips into the hills to hunt rocks or find the next fishing hole for himself, and his sons and grandsons.
He was elected Secretary of State and went on to be instrumental in implementing the historic Help America Vote Act. After eight years as Secretary of State he ran successfully for State Treasurer, where he oversaw the state’s $15 billion investment portfolio. As one of the five state elected officials, Joe was also an active member of the Wyoming State Retirement Board of Directors, the Wyoming Community Development Association Board, the State Land Board, the State Loan and Investment Board and the State Building Commission.
Former State Auditor Rita Meyer said, “Knowing and working with Joe was an honor for me. He was a tremendous source of knowledge in my days as Chief of Staff to Governor Geringer and as a colleague when we were both elected officials. I will miss our conversations and that knowing smile. He and Mary are dear friends and my heart goes out to her and the family.”
Joe spent his life serving the public in many capacities. He was Chairman of the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Board, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Longs Peak Council, Boy Scouts of America, governing board member of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Chairman of the Frontier Certified Development Company, chairman and senior Western States attorney general of the Conference of Western Attorneys General, and Chairman of the Western Conference of State Treasurers. He was also on the transition team for the Bush-Cheney team in 2000 after their historic election and was very involved in the Wyoming Futures Project during the Governor Herschler years. In 2007, Joe was honored as the Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the Longs Peak Council, Boy Scouts of America.
Joe was an avid fan of all things UW. He has held his fifty-yard line football tickets from the day the upper west stands were opened and held the strong conviction that you never left a game before the clock ticked out, no matter the weather. He and his wife Mary were lifelong members of the UW Alumni Association and longtime members of the Cowboy Joe Club. He was awarded the UW College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni award in 2010 and is to be honored during this year's UW Homecoming as one of three new University of Wyoming's Distinguished Alumni.
Joe’s legacy lives on in Wyoming through many friends and colleagues he worked with over the last 40 years. His knowledge of Wyoming and statesmanship were an asset to all who knew him. His approachable manner, good humor and complex understanding of government had him serving as political counsel and mentor to hundreds of candidates and campaign workers throughout his life. Joe was a life-long Republican who championed doing the right thing for Wyoming's citizens and had a hand in shaping the Wyoming that exists today.
Said Senator Mike Enzi, “Joe made a difference whatever he did, whether establishing the LSO, serving as Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer or just attending football games. His contributions and enthusiasm will be missed by everyone. All of Wyoming has lost a friend.”
Deputy State Treasurer Sharon Garland echoed Senator Enzi comments. “The staff at the State Treasurer’s Office is deeply saddened by the passing of our boss and friend, Joe Meyer,” said Garland. “Treasurer Meyer was a great leader, a very intelligent man, strong, yet gentle with a great sense of humor, a truly wonderful man. He worked tirelessly for the people of Wyoming during his 40-year career in state government, a great example to all of us. As his staff, we saw how much Joe loved his work as State Treasurer, but we saw even morehow much he loved Mary and his family. We are proud and honored to say we worked for such a great man. We will all truly miss him.”
Born in Casper, Joe graduated from Natrona County High School. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Mary Orr Meyer, his sons, Vince, and Warren (Cory), grandsons Ethan and Devin, all of Cheyenne and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
Services are under the direction of Schrader Funeral Home in Cheyenne. Funeral arrangements are pending.