Cheyennes First Female Mayor

April 14, 2017
head portrait of a woman, Marian Orr

Marian Orr’s strong foundation at UW helped her become the capital of Wyoming’s first woman mayor.

Growing up working nights and weekends in her grandparents’ Casper department store, Marian (Smith) Orr never dreamed she’d one day become the first female mayor of Cheyenne. As she begins her first term as mayor, Orr chatted with the University of Wyoming Alumni Association, sharing how her time at UW helped her reach this historic milestone.

“My UW experience was absolutely fantastic,” Orr says. A political science turned communication major, Orr graduated in 1992. She says it was an exciting time to study politics with the Cold War going on and the Berlin Wall coming down, and she appreciated the international perspective UW offered.

“It was just a fantastic time to be really looking at the world outside of my small little view frame,” Orr says. “The professors that I had were very high quality. In that particular period of time, we were very fortunate to have former ambassadors who were serving as guest faculty.” 

As a student, Orr wrote for a campus publication, served on student government, was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority and enjoyed attending football and basketball games. Of course, she also remembers Laramie’s famous winters: “I don’t think anyone forgets how cold it can be walking across Prexy’s Pasture, making your way to class.”

After graduation, Orr moved to Cheyenne and started her own lobbying and political consulting firm, which allowed her to work from home as she raised her son and daughter. During that time, she represented a wide variety of interests, including libraries, the medical community and hunting and fishing rights. She married Cheyenne native, journalist and longtime political veteran Jimmy Orr in 2014.

Orr believed Cheyenne was at an exciting crossroads and decided to run for mayor, winning the historic victory in the fall of 2016.

“One thing that I really believe set apart my campaign from any in the state was how incredibly social media driven it was,” she says. “In the primary, the only things I spent money on were yard signs, door hangers and then social media. I did not do one television ad, any direct mail or newspaper ads, and I was the top vote getter out of 13 candidates in the primary.”

As mayor, Orr is ready to deliver on her campaign promises. “My largest goals for Cheyenne are really to go back to what I campaigned on and what I heard from voters: They really wanted to focus on the basic role of government—that our streets are in good condition and that we have enough police on the force because we are actually down 11 officers when I first started the campaign,” she says. Orr says those positions are quickly being filled.

“I’ve created a Fight the Blight task force to really take care of and address homes that are abandoned and run down, and this group is being really aggressive,” Orr says. “It takes political will to do that.”

Orr’s son will attend UW this fall, majoring in wildlife and fisheries. Meanwhile, her daughter is now a junior at UW majoring in business and participates in marching band and pep band—cheering on the Cowboys and Cowgirls as her mother still does.

 “The University of Wyoming afforded me such an opportunity to not only get a fantastic education, but to have lifelong friends and certainly mentors,” Orr says. “There’s nothing better than being a proud Poke, and I just love the university. You can often find me in the grocery store in my UW ball cap.”

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