If you've telephoned Town Hall within the past five years, you've probably spoken to Jodi Wilson.
She's the clerk who sounds like a young Lauren Bacall.
If you've physically entered Town Hall, you've been dazzled by her presence.
She's the one with the lighthouse-bright smile.
And if you've ever caught Wilson outside of her office, any casual conversation which ensued surely made you feel like you had time-traveled to another time.
Although Wilson wasn't born until 1966, she is the walking, talking embodiment of every Baby Boomer's favorite decade. No wonder so many of her co-workers call her "the flower child."
She uses phrases like "right on" and "do your own thing."
Her greatest dream is to move out of the home she now lives in, and into a school bus.
Her long, blonde hair and ankle-length dresses would not have looked at all out of place on the corners of Haight and Ashbury the year she was born.
All she sincerely cares about is helping those who need help.
And she thinks of herself as a gypsy with good reason.
Before Wilson was 15, she had lived in more places around the globe than most seasoned travelers ever have the opportunity to visit. Because her father was in the Army, Wilson was born in Bad Hersfeldt, Germany ... from which her family later moved to New Jersey, Japan, Maryland, Virginia (three times), Pennsylvania (twice), and her favorite place in the world, Ankara, Turkey.
"I was 13 years old," Wilson remembered, "and I'd never seen anything like it. Most of the people there are extremely poor. We lived near a peasant village where there was no running water, no electricity, no telephones, no television set. They didn't have enough money to buy shoes. You are either rich or extremely poor. Living in Turkey really gave me a right-in-my-face experience about how fortunate I was."
But what she loved most about the country is the same thing Wilson now loves most about Payson. The friends she made.
Upon being brought back to the States, Wilson said, "I was very homesick for my friends in Turkey. When you're 15 and uprooted from your friends, well, it was pretty hard. It was a very small American community; there were 23 people in my ninth-grade class. I still miss them all."
Eventually, Wilson's family landed in Jonestown, Pa., where they stayed for a full 10 years. She developed "some roots," she said, but nothing like what she'd find at her next stop: Arizona, just to visit friends.
Before crossing the state line, Wilson had much the same preconception that she'd had about Turkey: "That it was some kind of barren, desolate wasteland with tumbleweeds rolling around ... But I found, of course, that it's a very, very diverse state. I love diversity."
Soon, Wilson discovered the diversity of Payson when a significant other at the time a musician landed a permanent gig at the Ox Bow restaurant. "I really liked him, so I came, too. That was how I got my first taste of Payson."
Having picked up an associate's degree in Pennsylvania, Wilson landed a job as a paralegal. About six months later, she saw a newspaper ad listing an opening at Town Hall, applied, and started working for Doris Robertson, the town's prosecutor.
But one day, Wilson decided she needed a change, so she quit. Just like that.
"I had faith that whatever was meant to be was going to be. I thought about working with the physically and mentally challenged. I thought about working with children. I think people should really have the opportunity to have four or five careers throughout their lifetimes, because there are so many things to experience."
Six days later, Wilson found her new job: back at Town Hall, working as a senior clerk in administration.
"I really like interacting with people, either by phone or, preferably, in person. That's why I love my job right now. People are my thing."
Wilson accepted the position on a whim much as she's made most of the major decisions in her life.
"I moved to Payson on a whim. Before that, I'd moved to Phoenix on a whim. My mom used to call me a gypsy, because I love old jewelry and I still collect it to this day. As a child, I'd put on as much of my grandma's jewelry, all of it, as much of it as I could get on me in my hair, on my neck, it would be hanging off me everywhere."
This resemblance to gypsies, however, does not reside in Wilson's gene pool.
"It's really interesting, because everyone else in my family is so rooted and grounded ... But me, I'm a fidget. I have traveling in my blood. I just love to do new things, experience new adventures."
Although Wilson admits that she often thinks of pulling up her Arizona roots to pursue the adventure of life her current dream is Alaska she said she is going to fight that urge for a while.
"My family is still in Pennsylvania," she said. "I really love them all, and they often wonder why I stay living out here. But I just have friends I really connect with in Payson. And I really like nature. I love to hike, I love to just stand and feel what nature has to offer. There aren't many better places to do that."
Of course, it should be pointed out that Wilson has dearly loved every place she's ever been. To illustrate her typical level of enthusiasm, let us quote the following conversation verbatim:
"I loved living in the Valley. I didn't have a vehicle. But I really loved riding the bus! You can meet people like crazy on the bus!"
You loved riding the bus? And waiting for the bus? In the summertime?
In the Valley?
"Yeah! Carrying all my groceries! Heck, yeah! It didn't bother me at all ... until I got heat stroke at a Lollapalooza concert. Now, I can't take the heat anymore."
When pressed, Wilson admited there is only one place on the planet where she will definitely, absolutely, certainly not be moving.
"The Arctic Circle. I know there's penguins down there, but I do not like the cold. I'm not a snow bunny. I would not wait for a bus in the cold."
Name: Jodi (Joella) Wilson
Born: Jan. 23, 1966 in Bad Hersfeldt, Germany.
Family: A 15-year-old son, Brad Wilson; brother, Eddie, sister Carrie.
Personal motto: Gratitude.
Greatest feat: Recovery.
Most admired person: Jesus.
Luxury defined: I'm looking for an old, running school bus that's been totally redone on the inside so that it's livable. That would be my idea of true luxury.
Dream vacation spot: To perform missionary work in a foreign country, working with small children.
Why Payson? I really, really, really love the people. I love my job. I couldn't have a better boss. And I love my church.