Payson Changes Direction

Schum, Brewer, Siverson and Wolfe win election

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Tuesday's primary election was a clean sweep -- both for the winners and the council's conservative direction, Payson's midterm councilmen said after the results were announced.


"The voters wanted change," mid-term Councilmember Jim Spencer said Wednesday. "They wanted to create a more positive force at their local government level, and they wanted people who can handle difficult issues and challenges with a progressive, positive outlook."


The election, the mid-termers said, was a clean sweep in more ways than one.


First, there was the across-the-slate sweep made by the winning candidates, who racked up enough votes to eliminate the need for a general election in May -- saving the town as much as $15,000, Town Clerk Silvia Smith said.


In the mayoral race, councilmember Ray Schum took an early lead and held on to it, ending up with an official, four-district tally of 1,473 votes to incumbent Vern Stiffler's 872. Mayoral candidates Jack Jasper and Steve Lanyi earned a combined 487 votes.


With the total number of voters officially calculated at 2,891, the figure each candidate needed to beat the opposition in the primary was 50 percent plus one vote, or 1,446.


Three town council seats also were up for grabs and were won in similar fashion. The final count for incumbent Barbara Brewer was 1,785 votes, and the chairs now occupied by Schum and Jack Monschein were won by Richard "Dick" Wolfe, with 1,820 votes, and Bryan Siverson, with 1,746.

The other council candidates, Hilda Crawford, Ruby Finney and the unseated Monschein, brought in a combined 2,605 votes.


"Naturally, I'm overwhelmed that the voters have chosen me, Schum said shortly after the results were announced Tuesday night. "That indicates they wanted a change in town government ... But this won't be a one-man job. Teamwork and leadership will lead us to where we're going."


Schum will begin his two-year term and Brewer, Wolfe and Siverson will begin their four-year terms June 8.


On that date, the midterm councilmembers said, the election's second clean sweep -- of the old council's agenda and its plans for the town's future -- will likely begin.


Presiding Vice Mayor Ken Murphy, whose council seat was not threatened, said that the character of the council has been "changed significantly" by the election of new members he called "more forward-thinking, more inclusive of all the citizens of Payson.


"I believe (the incoming councilmembers) care about more than just issues related to retirement;

these are actually business people who have kids and are raising families," he said of Siverson and Wolfe. "That's important, because this is not just a retirement town. It's a very balanced town that includes families, the senior population and the workers who provide the services for the seniors."


Murphy said he expects to see a number of policy changes, but he thinks they'll be subtle ones.

"I don't think our fiscal policies are going to change much," he said. "We've always operated in the black, we've always looked for water."


The most visible difference Murphy said he expects to see is a greater focus on Payson's children and young people.


"I think there has been a concerted effort by some people on the council to ignore the needs of youth," said Murphy, who was the youngest member of the council and the only councilmember with young children until Bryan Siverson was elected Tuesday.


"Some (previous councilmembers) voted against Green Valley Lake when it was being developed; they voted against the rodeo relocation; they voted against trying to improve the parks system."


Ultimately, Murphy said, the voters' message was loud and clear: Continue moving forward.


"There's nobody sitting (on the council) now, or who just got elected, that wants to turn Payson into Phoenix," he said. "But we are a town that is destined to grow at some level, no matter what, and growth is controlled more by the economy than government or any other influences."


Contacted at his home the morning after his defeat, outgoing mayor Vern Stiffler had a different perspective regarding the same viewpoint, which he summed up in five words: "The developers are in charge." Stiffler had no further comment.


Hoby Herron, a midterm councilmember, agreed with Stiffler. He said he thinks the new mayor and councilmembers' agenda is to spur development.


"And I think that will continue to be their theme," he said. "But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they'll come to their senses.


"There's two different sides to this thing," Herron said. "One is, let's try to control the growth to not endanger the current citizens, and the other is, let's ... encourage new people in. The ones who got elected believe we should encourage people in. But to do that, you've got to increase water usage and a whole bunch of other things, so I think (the electees) are living on dangerous ground.


"But until I work with them for a while, and see how vehemently and rapidly they want to do things, I won't know," he said.


Councilmember Spencer offered a less tentative and more positive outlook.


"I am very encouraged by the results of the election," he said. "I believe the citizens have elected a progressive team that can build consensus, compromise for the greater good of our town, and finally, agree to disagree when appropriate on issues without destroying relationships."


The focus of the soon-to-be revamped council, Spencer said, will be "to prepare our town for future generations. That will be the emphasis of this team."


Even though Jack Monschein lost his title as councilmember, he, too, was upbeat and optimistic.

"I'm glad for (the electees)," he said. "They did their homework and they got the votes. I hope they do a good job for us."


Monschein said he wasn't surprised by the overall numbers, especially those garnered by Dick Wolfe. "But what was kind of surprising to me," he said, "is that Bryan Siverson was (a) high vote-getter. I've never heard of him."


Monschein had no real predictions for the future of Payson over the next few years, but he did have some advice for the town's new leaders.


"I personally hope that they come from the first budget hearing and take it over right then," he said. "I'd hate to get in there and (alter) the budget, and then they'd have to live with it. I don't want to do that. I want them to be involved. It's their budget for the next year. They should be the ones who make that budget, not the people going out.


"The only other advice I've got is that they have to work for the people -- not for any group or other interests. And to be careful with our water.


"I hope to see them put more money into streets and recreation for kids," Monschein said. "For those reasons, I would have liked to (have remained on the council) one more time. But that just wasn't in the cards."

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