Wyoming Women of Note: Celebrating Leadership

Celebrating Leadership
Pictured Left-to-Right: Lisa Gonzales, Andrea Byrne, Karen Wheeler, Kelly Janes

In March, we celebrate Women's History Month. This month is dedicated to commemorating and encouraging the study and celebration of the role of women in American history. Wyoming’s women stand proud as vital contributors worthy of recognition. In addition to being the first state or territory to recognize women’s right to vote, our state is home to the first female justice of the peace in the U.S., the first woman to serve on a jury and the first woman governor in the U.S.

The “Equality State” legacy continues in the women throughout our state in both the private and public sectors proudly continuing the powerful examples of dedicated women of Wyoming. While no one story encompasses the entirety of exemplary Wyoming women, this month we have the pleasure of highlighting our own staff of women who have shown extraordinary leadership at the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office. Karen Wheeler, Lisa Gonzalez, Andrea Byrne, and Kelly Janes, are integral members of the executive team within the office. These women lead four of the five divisions within our office. With a combined total of work years of 116, they have shown their commitment to public service in the many areas of our small but diverse organization.

Karen Wheeler

Karen is the Wyoming Deputy Secretary of State and has served in this capacity since 2015.

Karen began her 35 year career with the Secretary of State’s Office in 1985 and has had the honor of serving under seven Secretaries of State.

Karen started in the business division as a registrar, transferred to the securities division as a financial analyst where she audited stockbrokers and brokerage firms. At this time, Karen became instrumental in the development of a white-collar crime task force, which combined state and federal law enforcement and prosecutorial resources in the pursuit of criminals targeting Wyoming citizens. Working with the FBI, Postal Inspector, and the Secret Service, through the United States Attorney’s Office, numerous multi-million-dollar fraud cases were investigated and prosecuted.

Karen then became the Compliance Division Director and was responsible for the regulation of the investment industry as well as the registered agent industry.

In her current position as the Deputy Secretary of State, Karen is responsible for all statutory duties and operations of the Secretary of State's Office including planning, budget, personnel, staff development, and oversight of service to the public.

Karen was born and raised in Cheyenne and is a proud graduate of the University of Wyoming. When she’s not in the Office, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

“It has truly been an honor and pleasure to serve my state and the many constituents that I have met throughout my 35 years in the Secretary of State’s Office.”

Lisa Gonzales

Lisa is the Director of the Business Division which is the largest of the agency's divisions in terms of the number of employees. She recommends policy and implements statutory mandates in the administration of the Wyoming Business Corporation Act, Close Corporation Act, Limited Liability Company Act, Limited Partnership Act, Trade Name Act, and Trademark Act. She assists businessmen and women, attorneys, corporate service companies, and other constituents with their business needs. The Division records the initial filing of corporations, limited liability companies, and eleven other business entity types. She also administers statutory requirements in the administration of the Wyoming Uniform Commercial Code filings and Effective Financing Statements. This includes analyzing and testifying legislation and promulgating administrative rules relating to business statutes. The Division also registers and audits 500 Commercial Registered Agents who represent entities formed in Wyoming. The Business Division has used technology to improve customer services. She was involved in implementing services never before possible, electronic, online business filings. The online services are exciting and appealing to customers as well as the Business Division’s team. Lisa has 32 years of service with the Secretary of State's Office. In her free time, she loves baking, gardening, walks in the park, and spending time with her family and the two dogs!

“It is an honor and privilege to serve in this capacity. I look forward to all of the excitement and challenges that lie ahead.”

Andrea Byrne

Having been born and raised in Sweetwater County, Andrea is a proud Wyoming native! Andrea has been with the Secretary of State's Office for 31 years having first been hired by Secretary of State Kathy Karpan in the Business Division. After working in the Division for a short period of time, she was hired to be part of Executive Staff where she worked for 8 years, followed by a move into the Technology Division where she eventually was promoted to Technology Division Director and served in that capacity for 17 years. In June of 2019, the Technology and Administrative Services Divisions were combined and Andrea was appointed the Director of the Administration Division.

During her 30 plus years, Andrea has assisted the Office in conducting 32 statewide elections. She also has served in the capacity of project manager throughout her career for the Office on projects both small and large. These include projects which were the result of federal law (e.g. the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and its requirement for a statewide voter registration system as well as new voting equipment), state statutes (creation of an electronic campaign finance system, new laws about agricultural liens, etc.), office needs (redesigning of internal programs or public-facing websites) or public needs (creation of various online filing services). Most recently, Andrea was responsible for managing the project for the selection of a vendor and the subsequent deployment of all new voting equipment for the state for first use during the 2020 Primary Election.

Andrea and her staff manage all information technology resources as well as the fiscal, budget, and human resources/payroll responsibilities for the Office. The Administration Division files administrative rules for state agencies and promotes and protects Wyoming's iconic Bucking Horse and Rider Trademark. She and her Division also partner with each of the Office's Division Directors in the planning, development, deployment, and maintenance of office applications, computer resources, office websites, and web applications, etc.

Andrea attended the University of Wyoming and earned a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems from Regis University. She and her husband have hunted on three continents and enjoy international travel. COVID-19 has provided the opportunity to focus on seeing the sites within the United States! They both enjoy the outdoors, whether hunting, fishing, shooting, traveling, hiking, gardening, or riding their motorcycles.

Kelly Janes

Kelly is the Compliance Division Director for the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office Her division is composed of securities regulation, notaries public commissions, and authentications. Kelly and her crew are responsible for protecting Wyoming investors from fraud and ensuring firms and individuals selling securities comply with the securities laws in the state. The Division helps foster capital formation through a variety of securities registrations and exemptions. The Compliance Division also commissions over 12,000 Wyoming Notaries and processes hundreds of authentication every month.

Kelly has been with the Secretary of State's Office for almost 18 years starting as a brokerage firm auditor. In 2015, she was named the Director of the Compliance Division. Since then, Kelly has accomplished a complete overhaul of two separate uniform acts, the Wyoming Uniform Securities Act and the Wyoming Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts.

Kelly grew up in Burns, Wyoming, and has a Master's Degree and a Bachelor's Degree both in Finance from the University of Wyoming. Kelly and her husband have three girls and enjoy traveling, camping, golfing, and valuable family time.

Our office is better for the brilliant minds of these women who have given so much to it over the years. In March of 1968, former Secretary of State Thyra Thomson said “Can we through fear of relinquishing our prejudices, deny our nation the use of half of its productivity, talent, initiative, and intelligence? I think not. In a democracy, none of us is entitled to give less than the total of his talents. Our nation needs the brilliant minds of both men and women.” We are certain that former Secretary Thomson would be proud of the passion and hard work these amazing women bring to the Wyoming Secretary of State's Office.

Wyoming Women of Note is a series to celebrate Wyoming Women's Suffrage. New highlights will be released each month. Please follow the links below to see previously featured Wyoming Women: