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He came out as gay while on the city council in 2003, becoming the state's first openly gay elected official. Despite Wyoming's reputation for being politically conservative and the murder of Matthew Shepard nearby in 1998, Padgett found little difficulty, being unanimously elected mayor by the council in 2005. He reportedly enjoyed great popularity among his constituents, including support from prominent Republican Party politicians such as Alan K. Simpson. In addition he was, at 27, Casper's youngest mayor.
He was re-elected to the city council in 2006; his current term ends in 2010.
- "The New Face Of Gay Power", TIME, October 13, 2003.
- "Very Much At Home: A Gay Mayor In Wyoming", The New York Times, December 15, 2005, p. 34 (section A).