From Humble Beginnings, A Statesman Is Born


"I am not a politician," says Payson Town Councilmember Hoby Herron, hitting the word "not" like a sledgehammer hits a spike.

"Let's clarify that right now. I am a statesman. There is a very distinct difference. The biggest problem in federal, state, county and town government is that most everybody sitting in office is a politician and not a statesman."

As Herron defines them, politicians are those whose "decisions are based on getting re-elected. A statesman wants to do what's best for his government or community because he feels so fortunate to live in this country."

This statesman's fortune began in the Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Brownsville, where he was born in 1925, and where he lived until he was almost 18.

"As a kid, I was the 90-pound weakling on the beach, with a very severe stuttering problem," Herron said. "My parents tried everything in the world (to cure it). Twice, I went to special college classes to correct the problem, but that didn't work. I put dimes under my tongue and scissors under my armpits. Nothing. We went to several different homeopathic people who performed a sort of accupressure on my neck, but that didn't work, either at least not more than a few hours, after which my stuttering would return with an audible 'snap' that even people next to me could hear.

"Walter Winchell, the radio broadcaster of WWII fame, had stuttered as a child, so my mother wrote him a letter asking for help. And he responded, too. He wrote back, 'Let him grow out of it.' And I did! Walter was right."

While many of Brownsville's residents had no desire to leave, Herron says he couldn't wait to see the world. In 1943, with only a little time left before being drafted into the Army, Herron decided to take advantage of the free train passes which were perks of his father's job as a railroad worker.

"If I'm going to fight and possibly die for this country," he told his parents, "I'm at least going to see a little bit of it before I leave."

Herron first went to Rochester, N.Y. to spend time with his sister, introduce himself to big-city life, and land his first job with General Motors before following through on his plan to travel the country.

"It was a whole new world to me," he said. "Rochester and all of its theaters and restaurants were open 24 hours a day during the war. So instead of traveling on, I just stayed until I was drafted."

As an infantryman stationed in Italy, Herron was put out of commission by an enemy artillery shell which imbedded chunks of itself in his armpit, thigh and face.

"They always said that you'd never hear a shell hit you, and they were right." he said. "But I saw it. I just so happened to be looking up at a tree and saw the shell hit it. I saw the burst, but never heard the sound."

There was one moment in the aftermath of Herron's wound that's not likely to ever be recreated in any John Wayne-style war movie.

"I was laying there yelling for a medic at the top of my lungs. Finally, I saw another soldier and told him I needed help. He said, 'Sorry. I can't stand the sight of blood.'"

Two months after his military discharge, Herron returned to Brownsville, married his high-school sweetheart Ida to whom he is still married 54 years later and beat it back out of town as quickly as he could.

Ida got pregnant immediately "As all wives did right after the war," Herron pointed out with a chuckle and the first of their two children (Larry and Darla) was born as Herron resumed his old day job at the General Motors plant in Rochester.

He also attended night school to become an architectural draftsman, which eventually resulted in a GM advancement to the position of engineering draftsman and, later, design engineer specializing in automobile carburetors.

"Remember the Corvair car with the opposed cylinders? That was my first design," Herron said. "And the mono-jet carburetor that was on all the six-cylinder engines, that was my design. And the modified quadrajet in 1976 was my last design."

It was in the early '70s, though, that Herron suddenly realized that the weather in Rochester was lousy and that all the sunshine appeared to be out West.

By the fall of 1976, the couple had narrowed their retirement-area choices down to a small Oregon town, a small California town, and the winner a small Arizona town..

"We loved the weather, of course, and I've always liked the forest and the mountains ... so that cinched the decision" to move to Payson, Herron said.

Herron made the leap into statesmanship in December, 1997, he said, when "A group approached me and said they'd walk the neighborhood and post the signs if I would run for the council. I said,OK, I'll try it."

Two years after winning the election, Herron says he most enjoys "having the opportunity to make my points with the other councilmembers, even though I don't succeed very often. Check the records and you'll find I've cast more no votes than anyone up there."

His agenda is simple, Herron said.

"I'd like to try to change the town council into statesmanship, and develop the town on behalf of the citizens who are here and not spend so much money on trying to entice more people in."

Of the new slate of councilmembers, Herron says he thinks they are determined to "expand the business development of this town. I pray I'm wrong, but I don't think we have the water for it ...

"I may not sell the other councilmembers my ideas," Herron said. "But at least I'll have had the chance. And I'll feel good about trying."

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