Ray Schum was dying to be Payson's mayor.
Unfortunately, Schum said, that is not a figure of speech.
When the 79-year-old began his campaign last November, he decided to eliminate any age issues by volunteering to take a treadmill test.
"I wanted to prove I was in OK condition," Schum said.
"But when I got off the treadmill, my doctor said, 'You're a long way from OK. You could die any minute.'
"I wound up with quadruple bypass surgery the next day," Schum said. "Then two weeks later, I was hit even worse with a severe, severe bleeding ulcer and I'd never had an ulcer before in my life! I needed six transfusions to live. One of my doctors told my daughter, 'He could go to sleep any minute now and never wake up.'
"I've recovered totally. But if I hadn't decided to run for mayor, it would have probably been the end of me."
What happened instead, of course, was that Schum won the mayoral election by a landslide, eliminating the need for a general election.
Of that landslide, Schum said, "I have to accept it as a vote of confidence. I felt all along that I would win in the primary, even though I couldn't do what I did before which was to go out and knock on doors. I hit over 1,700 doors four years ago. This time, my plan was to knock on 2,500 doors ... because when you do that, people really know you're serious. But because of health problems, I couldn't do that for this election."
As it turned out, he didn't have to. Still, as well as things turned out, there was one vote Schum dearly wanted to get but didn't.
"I have four children," Schum said. "Three of them told me, 'Dad, do what you want to do, because we know you are, anyway.' We want you to be happy in what you do.'
"But I have one young son who's a JAG officer in the Marine Corps, and he didn't want me getting into this. Not one time has he said, 'Dad, I'm proud of you.' He doesn't want me in this position, even today.
"But what am I going to do? Sit in a La-Z-boy chair and wait for the Grim Reaper to creep up on me? Nope. He's gonna have to run me down."
And he's going to have to run pretty darned fast.
"I've always been driven," Schum said. "When I was elected to the council four years ago, I knew then and there that, ultimately, I would be mayor. It's just my nature to want to achieve and succeed. And I also wanted to do it for the benefit of my community. I really, really feel strongly about the fact that all of us who are successful owe the community in which we live some of our abilities."
On election night, Schum acknowledges, there were some grumblings along the line of "The developers are now in charge," referring to Schum's victory and those of reelected councilmember Barbara Brewer, and council newbies Dick Wolfe and Bryan Siverson.
To this day, Schum bristles a bit over the remark.
"I will talk to anybody and everybody, individually or in groups, to tell them what we're doing and why, to the best of my ability," he said. "If I can't look you in the eye and tell you why, I shouldn't be (mayor) ... My whole theme (in the election) was, 'Do the right thing.' I hope that two years from now, people will look back at this council and say, 'They did the right thing.' That's my goal.
"I remember when FDR used to have his fireside chats. He would talk about the things people wanted to know. That's what I want to do here to bring that kind of communication back to the people."
Obviously, this is a guy who's willing to play ball. And that is not entirely a figure of speech.
In 1948, Schum was an armed forces pitcher with a season record so impressive that the New York Yankees wanted to sign him up for their Triple A farm club.
At the time, Schum was 29, married with two children, and had racked up his first 10 years in the Marine Corps. So he stuck with the Marines for another 16 years and by the time he left for civilian life, he was among only 1/2 of 1 percent of all enlistees to achieve the rank of sergeant major.
Schum has been involved in Payson's community affairs almost since the day of his arrival here in 1989, after he retired as the personnel manager of the Deutsch Company, a major aerospace manufacturing firm in Southern California. For six years he conducted the community blood drive, and for two years he worked at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. In 1996 he was elected to the first of three terms he would serve on the Payson Town Council, and in 1998 he was appointed vice mayor.
Schum, however, has not let civic duty interfere with artistic expression. His No. 1 hobby is making Tiffany-style lamps out of translucent rock. He created the Santa Claus Lane at Town Hall, a relatively new Payson Christmas tradition that sprang from his love of decorating his own house during the Yuletide season. He and his wife also enjoy decorating, landscape painting and cooking.
And now, of course, he's the town's numero uno honcho.
"I'm really pleased with the makeup of the new council, and I like the enthusiasm they're bringing to the table," Schum said. "The only problem we may have is in trying to do too much, too quick. We've got to move slow and prudent in what we do.
"We've got a bad drainage problem that will take $2 million to solve. We need somewhere between $15 and $20 million to fix our streets. We need between $8 to $93 million for water. We need to cover the multi-event arena and the swimming pool. We need to build a community center.
"We've got to do all these things. But we can't do them all at the same time. After the next fiscal year, it's my hope to do some long-range planning, covering maybe the next 10 years, to get all our ducks in a row. With the right advice and the right attitude, I think we can accomplish everything we set out to do."
Of the accomplishments to come, Schum's top priority is the construction of the new Payson Public Library. In second place is an objective that's not so tangible, but perhaps even more important in the long run.
"I would hope that, as a result of leadership and teamwork, that we all support the decisions we make on the council. That's an important objective to me. If we do that and abide by the principles of democracy, where the majority rules we'll bring harmony to the council and the community. We haven't had that before.
"I won't say it will be a thankless job. But it's a job that has to be done. And why not me? I have the desire, the professional background, I'm as qualified as the next guy.
"Heck, it should have been me!"