Through acts big and small, Jim Hicks has become synonymous with community service, according to his friend Jack Tarter.
Whether serving as Buffalo’s mayor for two terms; reporting the news as the owner, publisher and editor of the Buffalo Bulletin for 36 years; or serving on the Johnson County Commission, Hicks has put his hometown of Buffalo first, Tarter said.
That love of community has also manifested itself in quieter, but no less important, ways, Tarter said. Consider Hicks’ nearly decade-long support of the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Horns.
“What I love about Jim is that he takes the time to understand all sides of an issue,” said Tarter, who is also a board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming. “He did that when he was at the paper, and he did that when he was on the commission. At a time when a lot of elected officials were considering cutting funds for the Boys & Girls Club due to budget cuts, Jim took the time to find out what the club did, and he came to realize that the program really kept a lot of kids out of trouble. He saw the big picture, and he knew that the county would actually save $50,000 for every kid the club kept out of trouble. He advocated for the club while on the commission and continues to do so. He is probably one of the most deserving people who have received this award.”
On Nov. 8, Hicks will be honored for his support of the club during the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Horns’ Third Annual Awards and Recognition Breakfast.
“I’m honored, but honestly, I don’t feel all that deserving of the award,” Hicks said. “I feel like there are other people in this community who have done much more for the club, but I’m grateful for the recognition and hopeful that it draws more attention to the club. Because if it helps the club, I am all for it.”
While he has long supported the efforts of Boys & Girls Club, Hicks said he gained a new appreciation for the work of the club in October 2009.
“At that time, the local club was still starting out, and it was still located in the old theater building, I think,” Hicks said. “They were doing a fundraising dinner and Dave Freudenthal (then the governor of Wyoming) was the keynote speaker. I know how precious the governor’s time is and was so impressed that he would take the time to support the Buffalo club. He obviously thought it was important, and that motivated me to come and learn more about the club.”
During Freudenthal’s speech, it became clear that the Boys & Girls Club was worthy of his support, Hicks said.
“He (Freudenthal) was talking about one young man in particular who had every reason to be in trouble,” Hicks said. “But here he was going to college. That night, it became very clear to me that this was a program making a difference in the community, and it was catching some kids that might go through the cracks otherwise. From then on, the Boys & Girls Club was added to the list of organizations that I support.”
Hicks said he was particularly vocal in his support of the club during his years on the Johnson County Commission (2012-16). During that time, the county’s valuation declined from $1.1 billion in fiscal 2013 to $514.8 million in fiscal 2017, which meant funds were less available for deserving community organizations such as the club.
“When you look at all the organizations that competed for funding from the county during that time, there wasn’t a single bad one,” Hicks said. “But you have to prioritize, and I always ranked the Boys & Girls Club pretty high. I feel they are filling a really important need that isn’t being filled by anyone else. They are not just providing healthy after-school activities, they are also providing tutoring and, in some circumstances, counseling for school issues. It goes well beyond just being a place where kids can hang out after school.”
Hicks said that even after leaving the county commission, he continues to be impressed with the club’s dedication to Johnson County students.
“My grandkids go there once in a while, so I stop by on occasion,” Hicks said. “I love to watch the students interact with (the club’s director of operations) Scott (Musselman) and all the staff there. The kids truly love the adults and vice versa. It’s pretty remarkable to see what is going on there.”
Though Hicks tends to downplay his role in the club’s ongoing success, Tarter said the club is indebted to his continual support.
“The club – and the whole Buffalo community – is way better off for having Jim Hicks,” Tarter said. “There are not that many people in the community who you could say that about.”