Agricultural economist concludes longtime career at University of Wyoming
There were many pin-worthy events in 1975.
The Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon; Bill Gates and Paul Allen created Microsoft (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak would create Apple the following year); “Jaws” dominated the big screens; and David “Tex” Taylor joined University of Wyoming Extension as a senior economist.
After 43 years, the professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics is retiring this month. His career spans beginnings as a loan officer in Nebraska to a research assistant in Washington, D.C., an extension educator and then faculty member in 1985.
Taylor said he would tell his 1975 self starting the career journey to be patient and expect the unexpected.
The Edgar, Mont., native was raised on a farm near Billings with two brothers. The 6-foot 8-inch Taylor attended Montana State University, played varsity basketball and earned his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1972 and master’s in 1973. That year, a teammate from the MSU basketball team asked if he would work on a study in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming.
“I came down here and basically never left,” quipped Taylor, who earned his Ph.D. at Colorado State University in 1985.
Taylor said a three-year stint in Teton County as an extension educator taught him how to frame things in a clearer, more easily understood and helpful way. He also came away with a wife. He met Rebecca in Jackson. They have two children, who live in Laramie.
Taylor has been the go-to guy for economic analyses of environmental, tourism and recreation, endangered species, and many other issues affecting Wyoming and its communities, noted Dale Menkhaus, professor emeritus in the department, who worked with Taylor for decades.
“His achievements and contributions have gained for him a distinguished reputation, not only in Wyoming, but also in the western region and nationally,” said Menkhaus.
His mentoring also drew respect.
Taylor was always patient, kind and generous as a mentor, said Chris Bastian, a professor in the department. Taylor helped Bastian with his dissertation.
Taylor taught the details that need to be considered pertinent to analyses, information not found in textbooks or software manuals, said Bastian.
“It was this kind of mentorship and expertise that sets Tex apart from many so-called experts,” he said.
Applied research, studies that help understand a given issue or question, always appealed to Taylor.
“Driving through a community somewhere in Wyoming, I’d always think, ‘What makes this community’s economy work, what drives it, what are the important factors, why is it here?’” said Taylor. “I always found that interesting.”
Taylor has been a longtime member of the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, which tries to estimate near-future revenues received by Wyoming’s government. It’s a cocktail of annual estimates in October to assist in the governor’s preliminary budget, with a revision in January. Mineral prices, natural gas prices and the stock market all come into play.
Very difficult to predict, he said.
Taylor said he will miss that experience. Getting the inside perspective on how Wyoming state finances work has always been very interesting, he noted.
“The economist does the analysis, and that’s wonderful and great, but to be useful, and where I get satisfaction, is when people actually use it,” he said.
Taylor said his plans are to remain in Laramie.