Forty-five years ago, Cheryl Spencer fell in love with Minatare’s small town charm.
“It’s just, to me, a nice little town. People that you don’t even know will wave to say good morning. We look out for each other.” she said. “I think that’s what Minatare is about – is helping each other.”
Now, Spencer, is in her first week as mayor. In the town of 896 people, she wants to see the place where she put down roots to grow back.
Spencer won the election over incumbent Bob Baldwin by a margin of 45 votes, winning 142 of the 239 votes cast in the election. Baldwin did not respond to a request for comment. Spencer said her focus is to promote businesses, clean and maintain properties, fix roads and reimagine housing.
“I don’t think any city ever has enough money to do everything they’d like to do. But if we could just maintain both that small town atmosphere, that when you come here, this is nice, well-maintained and it would be great to see some new housing.”
The small town has had struggles – like many rural areas – with a lack of jobs and a small population to balance upkeep of roads and buildings. Main Street, which Spencer reminisced once had several beauty shops, a laundromat, a drugstore and a place to pay your electric bill.
The town’s only grocery store closed in 2016, and people have to travel into Scottsbluff for gas and banking. The old Platte Valley Bank branch is now City Hall and only a handful of businesses remain: An auto shop, the post office, a beauty salon and the Broken Spoke Bar and Grill.
Spencer said there are some new prospects, with a Dollar General and a development at Stonegate and County Road 26.
“It would be great to see those develop and open up to our community,” Spencer said. Spencer, 65, didn’t start in small-town politics. She was born and raised in Scottsbluff, and moved with her husband in 1976 to Minatare.
She raised two daughters while working as a registered nurse at the Bayard nursing home. She returned to school and earned her licensed practical nurse certification to work at Northfield Villa and later a doctor’s office.
She also got involved, joining the Minatare School Board in the early nineties while her children were in junior high and high school, and later held a term on the City Council. She lost her husband to a work accident in 2016, but said she continued to look for ways to help in the community.
“I’m still trying to find who I am. Because I’ve always been mom, wife and stuff,” Spencer said. “But I’ve always liked to be involved in the community, and here I am.”
With small-town politics, the tactics were a little different. She bought one banner, hand-painted old signs given to her by a friend to put lettering onto, was given an extra cloth sign made by a neighbor and supporter. She didn’t participate in a forum but said she tried to be available. She was inspired to run by friend and new city councilwoman Celeste Sanchez.
Sanchez said she pushed Spencer to run because of her “open mind, and willingness for trying something new.”
“We just need some new ideas,” Sanchez said. “It’s like winning a lotto ticket: ‘Why don’t I ever win a lotto ticket?’ Well, you have to enter to win.”
Sanchez, who’s lived in Minatare 44 years, said she will balance her human resources career with being on the city council, her first public service position.
“I would like to see Minatare evolve, as far as housing, improving the looks of the city,” Sanchez said. “And working with other people getting new businesses in, what can we offer companies to come in to this area, we don’t have a lot. As far as downtown, I would like to really put a new facelift on downtown.”
Spencer said the election was the easy part, now it’s time for the real thing.
“I do realize the mayor doesn’t always have a lot of power. You’re more of a figure head – but you vote, when there’s a tie, she said. “But surely you know if you see issues and address them as a council, maybe we could get some things done.”