Hunt Takes School Board Presidency Seriously

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If the only way you know Albert Hunt is through the meetings of the Payson Unified School District's board of supervisors of which he serves as president then you have probably never seen him laugh. Or grin. Or display any facial expression that could be remotely termed a smile.

In that capacity, Hunt is the pure definition of studied seriousness.

Apart from that role, however ... well, he's still pretty darned serious.

But he is also capable of sustained and raucous laughter such as that which is evoked when Hunt is asked about the rumor that he's thinking about running for Mayor Ray Schum's job in the next election.

"No! Never, never, never," he repeats, laughing so hard that tears threaten to form in his eyes. "Never. Never, never would I run for mayor ... I'm not qualified to be a mayor, and I wouldn't want the hassle, even if it was a paying job. You gotta be crazy to want to be the mayor."

Ironically, based on the joviality of Hunt's response, it's impossible to doubt his seriousness.

As it turns out, Hunt a 14-year operator for the Town of Payson's street department is perfectly happy with the volunteer job he's already got, despite his hard-earned knowledge that there is no elected official on the planet capable of pleasing all of the people all of the time.

"There's always going to be parents or a teacher or teachers or some administrators who are upset with the decisions that you make," Hunt said. "But I haven't been called too many names. If you can explain to people why you did what you did, or just talk to them a little bit, you can usually get them to understand. They may not walk away completely happy, but at least they understand ... and stop wanting to chop your head off."

It has been that kind of leadership diplomacy that's helped to enable the current PUSD board of supervisors to achieve a number of difficult goals over the past three years.

"The curriculum has come a long way and not because of me," Hunt said. "The board and the administration have worked very hard at it. And last year, the new salary schedule that was developed for the teachers was a big accomplishment. Yes, we sacrificed some things to bring it to pass, but I think it was a big step in the right direction of getting to where we want to be with our teachers.

"Your main interest is the kids, of course. But you've got to take care of everyone else to make sure the kids are getting what they need."

It's not likely that many locals have a clearer idea of what the area's schoolchildren need.

Although born in Mesa 50 years ago, Hunt was five when his parents and six siblings relocated to Strawberry where his great-grandparents had settled in the 1880s, and where his father, Lufkin Hunt, is still a living legend.

A graduate of Pine Elementary School and Payson High School, the boy who grew up to be Albert Hunt never left the Rim country not counting the period he spent attending Ricks College in Idaho, which was followed by a stint at Utah State.

"It was real nice growing up here," Hunt said. "There were about 185 students when I went to Payson High School, and so you knew just about everybody."

It wasn't too long after graduation that Hunt met his wife, Payson-policewoman-turned-Roundup-reporter Charlene Hunt.

"The first time I saw her, she was a rodeo queen, riding in the Pine Parade," he said.

Asked if it was a case of love at first sight, Hunt answers with another atypical grin. "It probably was for her, but it wasn't quite that way for me." (Charlene remembers things a bit differently: "He chased me like a big dog, and don't let him tell you any different.")

The Hunts married in 1974 and have three children each of whom grew up in a far different Rim country than their father.

"What I miss more than anything is the sense of a ranching community," he said. "The people that got Payson going these old ranchers who had their homesteads have just kind of been squeezed out. I was raised on a ranch in Pine, so that's where my heart is. It's tough to see your heritage and maybe a little bit of your identity slipping away.

"But we're seeing positive progress, too," Hunt said. "I really think the schools are a lot better than they used to be in terms of what they now have to offer."

If Hunt gets his way, the schools will offer even more before his term expires next year or perhaps within his second term on the board, if he opts to make that political run.

"We're working on the track and the stadium," Hunt said. "We're trying to pay for it as we go, and that's been real slow and kind of frustrating. The (Tonto Apaches) chipped in $150,000 this year, and that's going to help a lot.

"Those are my goals: getting our facilities up to where they're equal to those of some of the other schools, and to where the community can use them and be proud of them."

With that, Albert Hunt smiles once again.

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