Payson Needs To Elect Leaders With Vision


by Stan Brown
There is no question about it. Growth or no-growth will be the big issue in Payson's upcoming election.

When our family first established a home in the Rim country, we had to go down to old Main Street to pick up our mail at the storefront post office. There was no home delivery.

Wilson's grocery store was down there, too, and how we would load up the old car to make the 17 miles over rough gravel to our home on the river.

It was 1963. The town was not yet incorporated, the Tonto Apaches were still camping on U.S. Forest Service land and working at the Kaibab Industries saw mill. The burning sawdust smelled so good when we came to town, and smoke from the mill was sort of Payson's trademark.

We were grateful that the Beeline had been paved five years before, or we might never have settled here.Yet that same ribbon of asphalt over the mountains brought a steady stream of people like us, seeking the same haven we had sought.

When we moved to town, I could be fishing on the East Verde 10 minutes from my front door, or jumping off into three National Forests, several wilderness areas, and hiking uncounted trails. Where else could all this be found, together with such clean air to breathe?

I had to suppress my resentment when all those other people flooded in, seeking the same blessings I had found. Reason told me they, too, had a right to the blessings.

People continue to flock to Payson, and they will; there is no stopping them. Any attempt to stem the tide is shortsighted and self-destructive.

One axiom overshadows the entire discussion about growth or no-growth. Payson is going to continue to grow whether we like it or not. The real question is whether that growth will take place without a vision for the future, or will be guided and planned by those who have a vision to manage the growth for everyone's best interests?

Many years ago, in 1937, a small group of men from Payson joined with others from Pine and Gisela to lobby the State Legislature for a new north/south highway over the Mazatzal Mountains. The state had, at that point, planned to build the highway through the Verde Valley, where later I-17 was built. This group of local residents formed the Northern Gila County Chamber of Commerce, and drew Mesa and Winslow into the effort. After years of cajoling the Legislature, their efforts were rewarded with the Beeline Highway, which reached Payson in 1958. These leaders with a vision opened up Payson to most of the rest of us.

Now we need such visionaries to carry us into this new century. It is extremely important that every resident plan to vote in this spring's election, and vote with an eye to planning and managing the future of our town, not allowing it to drift any longer in an unrealistic never-never land.

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