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Matthew Shepard's Hometown Elects First Openly Gay Mayor

Matthew Shepard's Hometown Elects First Openly Gay Mayor

Casper, Wyo., city councilman Guy Padgett, 27, will become that city's first openly gay mayor and its first mayor under the age of 30. "I look forward to representing my community and city council in the year to come," Padgett said after his fellow city council members unanimously chose him. No other council member expressed a desire to be the city's next mayor before the informal vote was held. Casper is the hometown of murder victim Matthew Shepard, who was beaten and tied to a fence post outside Laramie, Wyo., in October 1998. Padgett and Shepard attended high school together. "We weren't that close," said Padgett, who graduated from Yale University. "But it felt very personal when he died. It hit me very hard." Casper's mayor is largely a ceremonial position. The mayor is the spokesman for the council, runs council meetings, and, along with the vice mayor, sets the agenda for the meetings. Padgett will formally take up his new leadership position at the first council meeting of 2005, which is scheduled for January 4. Padgett said he was relieved to get the whole mayoral election over with, even though he did not receive any negative feedback from the community due to his sexual orientation or his age in the past few weeks. "I think people have been very kind and very supportive, and I appreciate that," he said. Padgett added that he has not been approached by any gay groups to be some kind of a spokesman for them, nor has he been contacted by any special interest media about becoming Casper's mayor. Despite being a man who will set two big mayoral firsts in Casper, Padgett said he does not see himself as a trailblazer. "I think I am just trying to serve my community in the best way I know how," he said.

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