They say there are more antelope in Wyoming than people. It is indeed the least populous state in the nation. Which explains why Tom Brantley (bottom photo) and Kris Korfanta so loved it when Braver Angels pivoted to Zoom events last year.
As Wyomingites, the two are used to traveling enormous distances for meetings. But as the state coordinators – Brantley (Red) in the capital, Cheyenne, and Korfanta (Blue) in Ranchester near the Montana state line — they always knew it would be a struggle to set up and run lively in-person activities.
Now as the pandemic starts to recede, the two are interested in exploring a few selected in-person events, probably in and around Wyoming’s most dense population spots such as the Cheyenne-Laramie area or Sheridan County, where Kris lives. But Brantley speaks to the realities of how Braver Angels must operate in Wyoming: “Zoom is especially valuable for a state like ours – I don’t see it going away.” Add Korfanta: “I agree – who wants to drive hours to go to a meeting!”
Like Braver Angels leaders in other states, the two fill multiple roles. Korfanta and Brantley work regularly with Montana coordinator Janet Sedgley as co-chairs of the Wyoming and Montana Alliance. She and Brantley team up with Sedgley and a dedicated group of others on the Alliance Planning Committee on events and on many other dimensions of their work across the northern Rockies region. One of the Planning Committee members, Lindi Kirkbride, co-chairs BA’s national Rural Communities Committee.
Korfanta and Sedgley are also very involved at the national level, whipping debates, moderating workshops, and serving as ZEMs. Korfanta and Brantley are event organizers too, and have helped set up and run everything from debates to Skills for Bridging the Divide workshops and discussions of books and movies that relate to BA’s purpose.
Like their peers elsewhere, the Wyoming duo are part of a group of active volunteers. “It’s not just Kris and me,” says Brantley. “We’ve got a really good planning committee that meets regularly, and others that help out from time to time.” One of those volunteers – Brian Martin – is the managing editor of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, and Martin has helped engineer four events through the newspaper and under the With Malice Toward None initiative from Braver Angels. One of those events featured a panel of experts tackling the local and often contentious issue of Wyoming’s finances.
Korfanta and Brantley have a list of other topics they want to build events around, from ranked-choice voting to getting money out of politics. But they could use more trained moderators in the region. (Carrie Akston, from Utah, is currently their go-to for that role.) And they want to re-energize the Wyoming and Montana Alliance. The new regional lead, Robert Henson, should be helpful for such efforts – and for the duo’s push to attract more members and invigorate more local events.
The two state leaders also want to strengthen communication with local membership. Although Brantley wrote about Braver Angels in the Tribune-Eagle (“we made sure every newspaper in the state got that editorial,” says Korfanta) and Korfanta talks up the organization wherever she goes, they’d love a volunteer to step up and own the job of communicating Braver Angels ideas and practices across the northern Rockies.