A Wyoming mayor’s decision to remove portraits of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence from the town hall and replace them with a picture of a Native American chief has some community members up in arms.
Mayor Pete Muldoon of Jackson, Wyoming, directed town staff members to make the swap on June 5, saying there is no requirement to have a picture of the president displayed in the building.
“When the Town Of Jackson decides to honor such a divisive person, it is taking sides against some of its residents,” Muldoon said in the statement. “The Town Council has made no such decision, and until and unless it does, that kind of honor will not be bestowed.”
Muldoon said he isn’t sure who hung the photographs of Trump and Pence in January, but that the town council, a non-partisan body, never authorized their display.
“We aren’t required to display signs of respect ― our respect is earned, not demanded,” Muldoon said. “Dictators like Joseph Stalin required their portraits to be displayed everywhere. Luckily, we do not live in a dictatorship.”
Some community members aren’t happy with the mayor’s decision. Teton County Commissioner Paul Vogelheim, who also chairs the county’s Republican Party, called the move “totally disrespectful,” and said portraits of U.S. presidents have hung in the town hall since at least the 1980s.
We aren’t required to display signs of respect ― our respect is earned, not demanded. Pete Muldoon, Mayor of Jackson, Wyoming
Vogelheim told HuffPost he’s concerned the mayor’s action is bringing “ugly, national partisan politics” into Jackson, a popular tourist destination located about five miles from Grand Teton National Park.
“It has fanned this fire of divisiveness among friends and neighbors,” Vogelheim said. “It’s unfortunate.”
Trump walloped Democrat Hillary Clinton in carrying Wyoming’s three electoral votes last November; he won close to 69 percent of the statewide vote while she got about 22 percent. But she dominated in Teton County, which includes Jackson, getting about 58 percent of the vote there to about 31 percent for Trump. It was the only Wyoming county she won.
Councilman Jim Stanford said hanging portraits of the president and vice president in town hall isn’t a longstanding tradition, and only began in the early 2000s.
Stanford said someone ― without the council’s permission ― first hung photographs of former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, likely to honor Cheney’s Wyoming roots. Those were then replaced by portraits of their successors, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
“I’ve always found it a bit strange to have a portrait of the ‘supreme leader’ hanging in the town hall,” Stanford said. “We should be able to show up to a town meeting to work on town business without having to see the snarling mug of Donald Trump.”
It was Stanford who suggested replacing the Trump and Pence portraits with an image of Chief Washakie, the leader of the local Shoshone Tribe in the mid-1800s.
Washakie, who remains a well-known figure among many Jackson residents, brokered peace treaties and settlement deals between his tribe and the U.S. government. He became the only Native American chief to be given a full military funeral upon his death in 1900.
“It’s a way to honor our native history,” Stanford said. “I think it’s an improvement.”
Like Muldoon and Stanford, Vogelheim said he is “struggling” with some of Trump’s political stances, including on environmental issues and conservation measures.
“Our current president is causing everyone to become activists in different ways,” he said. “But it’s a matter of how to channel your energy.”
Vogelheim said the town council could vote to override the mayor’s decision and that he hopes a petition Republican Party activists are circulating will encourage it to do so.
Muldoon didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
“There’s no reason that [Washakie’s] picture can’t be hanging, too” Vogelheim said. “But let’s put the president and the vice president’s pictures back up.”