People Of Influence

Leaders offer their view of Payson's strengths and weaknesses

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The Roundup selected a handful of people "in the know" on subjects of primary interest to Rim country residents and/or who represent major segments of our population.

We asked each one to identify the major assets and strengths of our community, the greatest issues and challenges we face, the role each thinks he or she can play in addressing those issues, and to share his or her vision for the Rim country's present and future.

Scott Flake
Director, Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation

How I got here

My roots in northern Arizona go back five generations. As my wife and I moved around the state, we always thought Payson would be a wonderful place to live. When my company offered to transfer me here I literally pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. When we finally moved here, the town exceeded our expectations. Officially, I've been a Payson resident for almost three years now.

Assets and Strengths

There are many, but here is my top five"

1. Our high quality of life The Payson area's mountain setting, perfect climate, forested environment, small-town charm, and family-oriented atmosphere all make this the ideal place to live, work and play.

2. Our people The Rim country has always been home to rugged individualists. Our region continues to attract people with ambition, ideas and talent who are eager to get involved. Payson people are some of the friendliest I've met anywhere. We also have a quality work force and an underutilized resource in our experienced retiree population.

3. Our heritage We have a colorful western history and an abundance of outdoor lore. It is my hope that we can continue to preserve and further incorporate the charm and intrigue of these roots into the flavor and character of our community as it continues to grow and progress.

4. Our location We are right in the middle of the greatest state in the nation and within 90 miles from about anywhere you would want to go.

5. Our amenities Facilities such as Green Valley Park; our newly expanded, full-service hospital; the new, state-of-the-art movie complex; the recently completed EAC-Payson campus (not to mention our fantastic new assistant dean) and our new library are assets that contribute to our quality of life. The latter two also demonstrate the emphasis our community places on education.

Issues/Challenges:

1. Polarization Finger-pointing, categorizing and unnecessary criticism have caused our community to split into different factions. Too often we spend more effort arguing about our community problems than resolving them. Focusing more on our differences than our shared interests is counterproductive for all and damaging to our community spirit. We should not let our differences get in the way of achieving our common goals. I hope we can learn to value our diverse viewpoints, discuss with more diplomacy and try harder to avoid offending and being offended.

2. Identity A Valley TV station recently did a live broadcast from Payson. I was disappointed that the best location they could find as a backdrop was the highway signs at the intersection of highways 87 and 260. This is just another example of the challenge we have of determining where we are as a region and how we can better define the character of our community. We need to become a destination, not just a pass-through.

3. Business reputation Many business operators have the perception that Payson is not a business-friendly community. Although this is changing, previous experiences along with the scarcity and high costs of land, expensive impact fees and development fees all help continue this viewpoint.

4. Remoteness Although it's also a blessing, our isolated location causes some challenges to economic development. The distance from interstate highways and rail service, support businesses, large work force, etc. eliminates our region from consideration by some businesses seeking to relocate.

5. Lack of infrastructure Payson is a relatively new town and, although catching up, is still behind in a number of areas including an abundant water supply, transportation and quality of roads, broadband communications alternatives and support businesses. Our two developed industrial parks are effectively full. These are all impediments to economic development in the region.

My Role

The potential of our region is tremendous. Although my primary focus is on economic development, I take quite a broad viewpoint of my role and how our organization fits into the big picture. I hope I can help our region create a common vision and work with others to realize it.

The PREDC's two main objectives are to develop local jobs for our citizens and to build the region's tax base. By promoting the creation of more and better jobs, we hope to make Payson more livable for all. It can also help retain one of our most valuable resources our youth by providing employment in the area. Enhancing the tax base of the region keeps taxes lower and augments services provided. We are moving toward accomplishing these objectives through recruiting, retaining and expanding desirable businesses, working to cultivate a business-oriented environment, and by developing and promoting tourism.

To help create a common vision and better define our identity, the PREDC is working with a number of organizations on a regional "branding" project. This will help build a unified image for our region and develop a plan to share it with others who will want to come to our area to visit and/or do business.

In addition to the branding project, we are working with businesses interested in relocating to our area (as well as existing businesses) to make them feel more welcome and develop a more business-friendly reputation. I also support the search for water and the upgrade of roads and am organizing a task force to address the telecommunications issue.

My Vision

A clean, healthy and safe place we're all proud of; a place tourists want to come visit and a place where businesses thrive; a place that flourishes, not just economically, but in community spirit; a home where families, friends, faith, culture and education all thrive in harmony with our heritage.

Ruby Finney
Retiree

How I got here

I have lived in Payson since 1993. After searching several years for a nice rural small town with a good climate, I was fortunate enough to find Payson. It seemed to be just what I was looking for and I decided to look no further.

Assets and Strengths

The past nine years have brought many changes to the area, but the best assets of Payson have not changed. It is well located, central to the state's beautiful scenic attractions, has an almost ideal climate, absolutely great people who are not only friendly but give willingly to the community of their time and experience. If these are not enough, we have the National Forest surrounding us. Strengths of the town lie in the small town atmosphere and the willingness of citizens to help work toward finding solutions to problems when the facts and the opportunity to help. We are fortunate to have a bonanza of knowledgeable professionals who are retired from almost every field and we should take advantage of their expertise.

Issues/Challenges

First, I firmly believe that the polarization of the community must be overcome and soon. We are facing our most urgent challenge right now in solving our water problems. Some action to slow the use of water is urgent if the town is to remain vital. Quality of life is the second most important issue, second only because it is dependent on water also. It is rapidly declining with the advent of increased traffic, more crime (mostly drug-related), poor air quality and a complete lack of attention by the town to neighborhood needs. A scheduled bus line serving Pine, Payson and Star Valley, along with a local Payson service, is sorely needed and would be invaluable to all the communities. Our community must come together with common goals if any of the issues and challenges are to be solved.

My Role

Probably as an advocate of the folks who live here and help pay the bill for the expansion of the town, whose voices are not heard and whose needs are ignored in the name of economic development or business growth by those in control. I bring to the table petitions in writing, verbal petitions and very often suggestions and solutions. There is no ombudsman at Town Hall to work on behalf of Joe and Jane Citizen, so I hope I fill that role to some extent. With the growth of the Citizen's Awareness Committee, many more voices are speaking out and perhaps more will be accomplished.

My Vision

My vision is simple. I would like to see our communities well maintained, with decent streets, sidewalks, a small, well-run public transportation system. I'd like to see our local businessmen assisted in improving their businesses rather than subsidizing outside businesses to come to town to compete with them. I firmly believe that our town will succeed mightily as an attraction if we just look in the mirror and give the town a facelift. We don't have to build it to make "them" come. We just need to take pride in our appearance. So my vision is a really nice little town that shows its concerns for the people who live here. After all, they are the ones who count. When that happens, we can choose from many businesses that will want to move to Payson.

Bob Flibotte
Chairperson, Payson Planning and Zoning Commission/Associate real estate broker

How I got here

Our family moved to Payson in 1978 so our children could grow up in a small town atmosphere and for potential business reasons.

Assets and Strengths

Payson is still small enough in population that each individual voice may be heard and influence others to action. There is among our citizens a sense of the difference between right and wrong, a basic desire for fair play, a willingness to hear and to be heard. Democracy rules.

Issues/Challenges

On a large scale there is the psychological perception that Payson is a distinct (and) separate piece of the universe. In reality, our growing pains are shared by every community in the United States. Water and growth have been and will continue to be an issue in Arizona. We, the present caretakers of Payson, must find a way to manage our rate of growth and resource consumption.

My Role

My role is to balance the historical sense of Payson while understanding the process of serving today's population base while also preparing for the future growth attracted by the unique environment and economic advantages found in the Rim country. I bring to the table the ability to guide through persuasion and consensus building the direction we need to be moving to be ahead of those forces, which could overwhelm our quality of life.

My Vision

A population growth rate of 3-4 percent per year. A solution to a long-range water supply will be found. A southeast loop bypass in 15 years. Much higher property values and an increasing affordable housing problem. An increasing retiree/employee bedroom community tied by telecommunications and shortened commuting time to a northward expanding metro area.

Dr. Barbara Ganz
Administrator, Eastern Arizona College - Payson Campus

How I got here

I have lived in Payson since August of last year, only six months. But I visited Payson on a routine basis for more than 30 years and I knew some day I would live here.

Assets and Strengths

It is obvious that the greatest assets and strengths of our community are its residents. My general impression of the people of Payson is a group of people who are very giving of themselves. There is a great deal of volunteerism and a commitment to a better way of life for everyone in the community. Beyond that, we are fortunate to have a group of citizens who have incredible talents, experiences and backgrounds that have the potential to benefit all of us. Some of these individuals have lived here for many years and some are new to the area.

Issues/Challenges

The greatest challenge facing the Rim country stems from the need to balance growth and development with the ability to invest in the creation of the services and programs required to support that growth and development. For example, it is agreed that more and better-paying jobs are needed for Payson. That has to be supported by an investment in economic development measures. It also has to be supported by the local educational entities, K-12 and higher education, being able to produce an adequate, well-trained work force to attract and support businesses. Unfortunately, this is a time of budget cuts of state educational institutions. The challenge will be operating on a day-to-day basis fulfilling our mission of producing an educated citizenry with a greater and greater set of technology skills with fewer and fewer resources with which to do it, while, at the same time, investing in new programs and services to support the population and economic growth.

My Role

I see my role as being a team member with other leaders of this community. That role brings with it the need to know the community well, to know state and national issues, to know what is happening with funding sources for education and being able to make well thought out decisions about programs and services at the college which support this community. I have many years of experience making decisions for various educational institutions, an enthusiasm to learn about people and issues, a willingness to work as a team member, and a desire to solve problems.

My Vision

My vision for Payson is a place where children live in a home with love, with their basic needs met and plenty of activities that teach, provide enjoyment, and develop positive social skills. I visualize a Payson where adults, both working and retired, have access to lifelong learning and the upgrading of desired skills and knowledge. I visualize a peaceful place where people of all ages care about each other and dream of a positive future.

Buzz Walker
Director, Public Works

How I got here

I moved here 30 years ago from Carthage, Ill., accepting a job offer at United Utilities Water Company here in Payson.

Assets and Strengths

A progressive and conservative local government. A talented and mature town staff. The valuable experience of retirees willing to assist the local government. Good schools and medical facilities. Location, including our proximity to major urban areas. Willingness of the town council to resist the "grow at any cost" pressures. Payson has been responsible since incorporation in 1973 and has not overgrown our ability to provide excellent municipal services. Payson has also operated under the philosophy that growth must pay its own way.

Issues/Challenges

An adequate water supply for growth. A progressive philosophy vs. a no-growth philosophy. The expansion/growth of unincorporated areas. Adequate job opportunities at a living wage. Affordable housing.

My Role

My job is to accomplish objectives under difficult circumstances, to stay the course amidst changing policies and politics, to act as a team player to accomplish needed local objectives such as Green Valley Park from conception through construction, to uphold public trust under trying circumstances, and to help people.

My Vision

The incorporation of the Pine/Strawberry area for their benefit and to maximize local government cooperation on local issues. The continual development of "hometown amenities" to make Payson less of a place where people move to or from, but do not consider home. Maintaining our small town atmosphere in the face of inevitable growth. Controlling growth of the entire area so as not to surpass the carrying capacity of natural resources such as an available water supply, air quality, streets and highways. Support for the growth of our community college for local educational opportunities, business development, and career/ job opportunities. Making Payson the county seat if population and property values warrant.

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