Wyoming’s coal mining industry was secure until the early 1950s, when the Union Pacific switched to diesel-powered locomotives. Laid-off miners and their families struggled; little company towns disappeared. Eventually, trona mining expanded and replaced many of the coal jobs—and in the 1970s, coal came roaring back.
Democrat Kathy Karpan traces her love of politics to her youth in working-class Rock Springs, Wyo. She served as Wyoming secretary of state from 1987 through 1994, when she ran unsuccessfully for governor. During the Clinton administration, she directed the Office of Mining and Reclamation Enforcement, and now practices law in Cheyenne.
Sweetwater County’s history is as rich and diverse as its mineral wealth and population. The area became a transportation pathway, with the early pioneer trails and the transcontinental railroad and today’s Interstate 80 serving as important trade and travel routes. Mining of coal and trona and the production of oil and natural gas have been and continue to be significant industries, contributing to the county’s economic wealth and to Sweetwater County’s position as one of the top three revenue producing counties in Wyoming.