Evanston RoundTable, Sept. 19, 2019
Thirteen hundred miles straight west is that other Evanston, the one we occasionally get confused with, the one we sometimes think about, the one in the southwest corner of Wyoming.
What’s it like?
“It’s a really nice town with good people,” says Mayor Kent Williams.
The mayor should know. He has lived there 35 years and raised a family of four, with two grandchildren and two more on the way—all of whom live nearby.
In many ways the two Evanston cities are dissimilar. Our western namesake is 90% white, with few people of color. (We’re 66% white, 17% black and 10% Asian.) The western Evanston lies at an elevation of 6,750 feet, in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. (We’re 585 feet, with no foothills in sight, unless you count Mount Trashmore.) Their closest metropolis is Salt Lake City, 90 miles west. (We are across the street from the nation’s third-largest city.) Hunting is popular, so as with the rest of Wyoming, guns are widespread. “We like our Second Amendment rights,” says Mayor Williams. And the western Evanston is a lot more sparsely populated: 1,200 people per square mile vs. almost 10,000 here.
Still, there are some similarities, aside from the name. The two cities have about the same land mass—roughly 10 square miles. They’re at almost exactly the same latitude—a little more than 40 degrees north. Pick up I-80 just south of Chicago and drive 18 hours due west and you’re there. And both Evanstons were incorporated within a few years of each other, in the 1860s.
The Wyoming Evanston was founded in 1868 when the Union Pacific transcontinental railroad came through. A U.P. surveyor, James E. Evans, was the city’s namesake.
Crime rates in both Evanstons are thankfully low.
Mayor Williams, who works in the Uinta County Planning office when he’s not managing the city, says his biggest issue is the economy. “We rely on the oil and gas industries, so we’re vulnerable to the boom-bust cycle of the energy sector. During the boom of the 1970s and ’80s, our population exploded from 4,000 to 20,000.”
Since then, the population has shrunk to around 12,000, and getting people to move or stay there is a challenge. “We have our severe winters: it can get to 30 or 40 below in January,” the mayor says. “And the summer growing season is short.”
The recession of 2007-08 hit the Wyoming Evanston hard. “Prices and production were down,” the mayor says. He is currently working on diversifying industry with more manufacturing plants and improving the city’s infrastructure.
“But what I love most about Evanston are the people,” he says. “They’re very friendly and self-reliant. All in all, I’m pretty proud of this little town.”
As for his awareness of ourEvanston, he recalls checking out the website once and thinking, “’Wow, This is really cool.’ Then I realized it was yours!”