Water, Growth Top Candidates' Agendas

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Six people running for three seats on the Payson Town Council and four mayoral candidates faced a room full of voters Monday at the Payson Public Library on Main Street to explain why they're running for office.


The hot topics of discussion were water and growth, street repair and jobs, where the town's money goes, and why there isn't more of it.


They talked about how they would handle each of the interrelated issues.


The candidates forum, sponsored by the Payson Library Friends, gave each speaker three minutes to present his or her views. Each candidate then fielded questions from the audience.


Library Friends President Judy Buettner introduced mayoral candidates Ray Schum, Steve Lanyi, Jack Jasper and incumbent Mayor Vern Stiffler, and council candidates Hilda Crawford, Ruby Finney, Bryan Siverson, Dick Wolfe and incumbents Barbara Brewer and Jack Monschein.


"This forum is issue oriented," Buettner told the candidates, adding that there was no room for personal attacks.


Stiffler, who's seeking his third two-year term as mayor, talked about the progress the town has made in the four years since he first held that office, about the athletic fields built at Rumsey Park, the new Parks and Recreation building now located at Green Valley Park, the new police and fire stations, new roads, and the land acquired for airport expansion.


"We have spent $7 million in the last four years," Stiffler said. "And we paid for everything with cash."


"What's next? -- the library," Stiffler said. He said the town had $400,000 set aside to build the new library in Rumsey Park.


Stiffler concluded his three-minute speech by telling the standing-room-only crowd -- "That's what we've done with your cash."


Schum said he felt an obligation to run for the office of mayor after completing four years on the council.


"I've lived a lifetime of leadership management," he said. "I'm neither pro-growth nor anti-growth and have the flexibility to look at all sides."


Schum also told the crowd that he's running the campaign with his own money. "What you see is what you get," he said.


Although Schum called himself conservative in regard to water, he said he also favors economic development, "wherever we can do it."


Lanyi told the group that he has five children and a job and is running for office "because we need to take the town back for the people."


"Kids living in town
-- they need something to do," he said. "Let's show kids and do it today, not 20 years from now."

Jasper said, "The average citizen's needs must be given higher priority." He said he believed Payson should be a model community, "not a clone of another misled community."


He also said he does not approve of any new building until additional water is actually in the town's system.


Wolfe quoted a favorite philosopher, Will Rogers: "If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in all these campaign speeches, there wouldn't be any inducements to go to heaven."


He said he would work to get good-paying jobs in Payson and to build up the sales tax revenue.


Wolfe, who is chairman of the Green Valley Redevelopment Committee, said the project that will develop Main Street is a 10-year-plan that needs the political will to make it happen.


Later in the forum, when Crawford said the redevelopment area would not create living wage jobs on Main Street, Wolfe said the redevelopment district includes a larger area of town.


"It's not just Main Street," he said. "It includes light industry and employment in other areas."


Crawford, like a number of the other candidates, said she is not a politician. She said she is in the race for the Town Council because she felt the present council and staff are ignoring the residents of Payson.


She said her number one priority is water. "I do not believe that the current citizens who have paid need to pay any more."


Siverson, who is a small-business owner with a military background, said he has been a public servant since coming to town 16 years ago.


Siverson said he wants to increase the quality of life for all the town's citizens, that he wants to manage water and plan for growth.


"I have a personal reason for running," he said. "I would hope at least one of my five children would stay in town and enjoy the quality of life we have here."


Incumbent Barbara Brewer said she will continue her open door policy. "If you don't have economic development, you will have higher taxes," she said. "I've lived here almost 30 years and have had a small business for the past 16."


Ruby Finney, a Payson resident since 1993, said, "We've been mining water, taking more out than goes back. There are hopes of finding water in the forest. Who's going to pay for it?

"I believe new water owners should pay the total cost."


Jack Monschein said he made his first campaign speech in the same room where he spoke Monday, in what is now the Womans Club room at the Payson Library on Main Street.


"That was 24 years ago this month," he said. "And the library is the number one (item) for funding behind water."


Monschein said his 14 years' experience in public office has been spent serving the public with honesty, integrity and pride.


Finney called on young parents to attend the Town Council meetings and make their wishes known.


In response to a question about what the town intends to do about the county's decision to decrease funding to the Payson Library, Stiffler said, "We've got to go down to the Legislature."


Stiffler said the Gila County Library Board is now made up of the Gila County Board of Supervisors. "We need to change the board," he said.


One person from the audience asked, "In light of the condition of the present library -- what is your position on the new library?"


Stiffler said, "This thing's on track. I look for construction to begin in September or October."

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