Sara Flitner

Meet the Locals

Interview By Ben Graham

Sara Flitner

Photograph by Price Chambers

Like many who have come to call Jackson Hole home, Sara Flitner didn’t intend on staying long-term when she first landed here as a college student in a seasonal job. Twenty-five years later, though, Flitner is not only still here but, last January, was sworn in as Jackson’s mayor. The forty-eight-year-old says it was the people she met that kept her in this valley. Over her decades in Jackson Hole, Flitner has started a family—her husband, Bill Wotkyns, is a businessman, and their kids, Pete and Silas, are thirteen and fifteen—and had multiple careers. Her current one is doing executive coaching and leadership development; formerly she worked with legislators in Cheyenne. When Flitner, who grew up raising 4-H animals and had daily chores on a cattle ranch outside of Shell in the north-central part of the state, entered politics as a candidate herself for the first time last year, it wasn’t easy: she won by just forty votes.

Q: How’d you get to Jackson from Shell?
A: I came for a summer and worked at Jedediah’s. My best friend from college was here, and the waitressing money was good.

Q: You grew up in Wyoming; had you ever been to Jackson before?
A: I had. My family didn’t come every year, but we’d come to ski and visit like lots of people. I was probably in the fourth grade or so when we started coming.

Q: What did you think about the valley?
A: My first impression was how incredibly high the snowbanks were in the street. We would stay at the Anvil [Motel] and walk around downtown, and I remember these huge twelve-foot embankments. And I also remember the haystacks.

Q: When did you realize this was going to be your home?
A: Even when I was waitressing and not yet employed with a real job, it was clear there were interesting, passionate people here who wanted to protect this place. That’s a sign of vitality. There’s energy in being surrounded by people who feel there is important work to be done and are willing to do it. I saw that as soon as I moved here.

Q: What did you give up to stay here?
A: Law school. In my first year here I recognized I didn’t want to be a lawyer.

Q: When you were waitressing, did you ever think you’d run for Jackson’s mayor?
A: No. It’s kind of mind-blowing to think about.

Q: What was it like being a twenty-something here in the early ’90s?
A: Exciting. We experienced the same pressures everyone talks about today. Housing was always a worry. We worried that if we stayed here, could we find jobs that allowed us to afford to have a home and a family.

Q: How’d you transition away from waitressing?
A: I did what everyone does—got my real estate license. But I was the worst Realtor on the planet. That lasted just six months. I saw a Chamber of Commerce advertisement for a marketing assistant. I got that job and ultimately became the visitors council director. By then I had been here for four years. That sounded like a long time.

Q: Did you ever think about leaving?
A: No. There were times my husband got job offers in other places, but I had my heels dug in. We were not leaving.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between you and Mark Barron, the former mayor [of twelve years] and a friend of yours?
A: I’m shorter!

| Posted in JH Living
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