Longtime lawman, former sheriff Forrest Bright retires

Wyoming’s First Lady Jennie Gordon (center) takes a selfie with her Chief of Staff Trista Ostrom and former Uinta County Sheriff Forrest Bright. The group stopped in Farson for some ice cream as Bright was escorting Gordon around the state during her Wyoming Hunger Initiative program. (COURTESY PHOTO/Office of Gov. Mark Gordon)

EVANSTON — Last month, Forrest Bright, former Evanston resident, retired after 44 years in law enforcement, most recently serving as part of the Executive Protection Team for Gov. Mark Gordon and former Gov. Matt Mead. Due to state restrictions concerning large gatherings and social distancing, the retirement celebration party planned by Gordon has been postponed but will eventually take place when it is safe, Bright said.

Bright, the son of Patricia and the late Charles Bright, was born in Thermopolis. The Bright family moved from Utah to Evanston in October of 1965, when Forrest was 10 years old. When he was a senior at Evanston High School, he won the state wrestling championship in 1974.

“That same year, the Utah state wrestling team invited the EHS team to participate in their competition,” Bright said, “and I won the Utah state freestyle wrestling championship.”

After high school, Bright attended Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, where he received his Associate of Arts in Police Science. In July of 1976, then-Evanston Police Chief Mel Wren offered Bright a job with the Evanston Police Department. Bright served as patrol lieutenant with the EPD for 15 years when he decided to run for Uinta County Sheriff.

He won the election and served as Uinta County Sheriff from 1991 until 2006, giving another 15 years of dedicated service to the residents of Uinta County.

“The job of Sheriff was my favorite out of any of my positions in law enforcement,” Bright said. “I had the opportunity to drive around and check with ranchers in the county. As we visited, they would invariably insist I come in for a cup of coffee or to have lunch with them. It was a wonderful experience. The only downside to being sheriff was I had to run for reelection every three years.”

In March of 2006, Bright was approached by then-Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank, who asked him to move to Cheyenne to become the Director of the Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI). Bright received approval of then-Governor Dave Freudenthal and successive governors continued the approval, ensuring Bright held that position for almost eight years. 

When Mead became governor, he asked Bright if he would move to a position on the   Executive Protection Team. This meant that Bright would rotate between protecting the governor and his family and working on the road as a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper. The Executive Protection Team is made up eight troopers and a supervising lieutenant.

“Being on the Executive Protection Team was a wonderful opportunity, as I got to travel to other countries with the governor and to every town in Wyoming,” Bright said. “When I was protecting the governor and his family, I wore a suit and tie, and when I was on the road as a trooper I was in uniform — except during Cheyenne Frontier Days, [where] we got to dress in traditional western wear. Every two weeks, members of the team would alternate job duties.”

The governor praised Bright when contacted by the Herald.

“What a great friend and wonderful guy,” Gordon said. “What a fantastic history: sheriff of Uinta County, DCI director and the guy who drove First Lady Gordon all around the state for the Wyoming Hunger Initiative — even if they did stop in Farson for ice cream. It was Forrest who started calling Jennie “Sunshine.” He escorted us to Wyoming Downs last year and while we were talking to folks, he was winning money. Good guy and frugal, we didn’t get any of it!”

Bright and his wife Patty have spent the last seven years living a long-distance relationship.  When Forrest and Patty married, her teenage daughter didn’t want to move to Cheyenne, so they agreed to each remain in their own homes and see each other as much as possible. They both enjoy working together in their off time by flipping houses. They do the renovation and remodeling on houses themselves and then put them on the market. 

“It started as a fun venture, but I got greedy and just kept buying and flipping,” Bright said with a laugh. “We’ve flipped seven in the last three years. Now that I’ve retired, we will continue the venture. Patty is retired also and we had hoped to go on a cruise and take a vacation but COVID-19 has stopped that for now.”

When asked if he misses Evanston, Bright said, “Yes, I do at times. I have family there and when I visit I love to just drive around and see what’s new and what changes have happened. It’s a great community.”

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