Mayoral Candidates Talk About Key Issues

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The three candidates running for mayor of the Town of Payson were invited to provide answers to a set of questions posed by the Roundup.

Their responses are printed here side by side in a format that makes it easy for voters to compare where the candidates stand on key issues.

The three are:

Ken Murphy

A seven-year member of the Payson Town Council, Murphy has also served as vice mayor. Murphy, who has two children, has also served as president of the board of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. He says his leadership positions have given him a well-rounded perspective on issues facing the town.

Diane Sexton

Sexton emphasizes her local business background as a major strength. Married for 36 years to Paul Sexton, she has four children and nine grandchildren. Sexton says she is neither a "control freak" nor a "rubber stamp," preferring to work with people in a complementary way to achieve what is best for the town.

Jim White

A former Phoenix city councilmember and state legislator, White believes economic development must be a key component of Payson's future. Married for 44 years, White has three children and five grandchildren. White emphasizes that he has a proven track record working for the taxpayers.

The questions and the candidates' responses:

1. Why are you running for mayor?

MURPHY: "I have lived in Arizona all my life and in Payson for the past 17 years. Payson needs strong leadership to address critical issues by providing Jim White

A former Phoenix city councilmember and state legislator, White believes economic development must be a key component of Payson's future. Married for 44 years, White has three children and five grandchildren. White emphasizes that he has a proven track record working for the taxpayers. The questions and the candidates' responses:

1. Why are you running for mayor?

MURPHY: "I have lived in Arizona all my life and in Payson for the past 17 years. Payson needs strong leadership to address critical issues by providing facts and the reality of these issues. The greatest challenge facing Payson is an assured long-term water supply. The mayor and council must work with our neighbors to achieve that end."

SEXTON: "I want to make a difference in Payson. The town government has gotten 'top heavy.' The townspeople and their leaders need to be equalized, not polarized. We need to stop pulling apart. We need to start pulling together. I want to see more of what the people want and less of what the bureaucrats want. People's quality of life will improve. The attitudes will neutralize. Self gain or self interest will lose its clutch. They will get away from petty issues. The majority of the people will be happier. And the leaders will have an easier time fulfilling their duties. I feel I can make a difference in this process."

WHITE: "Because I feel this election is crucial for the future of Payson. The mayor you elect must be a good listener, a leader, someone who can bring consensus to decisions for the best interests of the town."

2. What do you offer the town that the other candidates don't?

MURPHY: "Education, leadership and management experience. In addition, I have lived here 17 years. I didn't just move here a year or two ago, nor did I change my address so I could run for mayor."

SEXTON: "A vision for the townspeople, not for the candidate. I expect no self gain. Do not aspire to higher offices. I have no hidden agendas. Special interest groups are not favored above other citizens. I have made no promises for the betterment of an individual nor the betterment of specific groups, especially in a financial way. Only as townspeople, collectively, will they be served. I offer a total commitment to the Town of Payson because my entire family lives here and plans to stay here for future generations. Another reason is what this town has been in the past, and what it needs to change (into) to become a modern, progressive place to live. My experience working with the consumers of this town. I know what has worked and I know what does not."

WHITE: "The experience and ability to keep taxes low, find new water supplies, work with the staff, plan for a reasonable growth rate, not to exceed our ability to maintain our resources. I can bring clean, low-water-using, economic companies to provide quality, high-paying jobs for our young people and retired people. I will implement new programs to save the taxpayers money the first year of my term."

3. What is your vision for Payson?

MURPHY: "The pioneers of yesteryear moved here then for the quality of life and opportunity this beautiful area provided. They helped each other achieve success. People live here today for the same reason we call it 'quality of life.' We must respect the challenges of an aging population and the demands of families for quality recreation venues for their children."

SEXTON: "I see Payson as a hub, a center, for the surrounding communities. Self sufficient, instead of a summer vacation place. Big enough to provide all the services people need for miles around. A community with a workhorse that maintains a good standard of living. A healthy place for children to grow up in. A place where education is offered so that the young people can learn skills for a vocation. Having a basic introduction for more sophisticated training where necessary. Poverty at a minimum level. Industry that provides employment for many. Not necessarily a tourist town, but a place where retirees will want to come live. A clean city with well-kept infrastructure and the required facilities in the northern part of Gila County."

WHITE: "A town that continues to be a community that maintains its beauty, clean air, low tax rate. It must provide adequate water, good jobs and planned growth. A town that is less antagonistic to each other and listens to all views."

4. As mayor, what steps will you take to try and make that vision a reality?

MURPHY: "I will continue to do what I have done the past 17 years work with others to achieve success. I have maintained a relationship with Gila County, the Tonto Apaches, the Forest Service and many other entities regarding water and other issues facing Payson. I believe I have gained a mutual respect for my approach to these organizations. I intend to represent (the) interests of Payson, but we must work with these agencies to fight the battles we must fight at higher levels of government."

SEXTON: "Conduct a needs assessment where the citizens have input. Involve the council with an awareness of the people's needs. Engage the governing body in the process of making it happen. Acknowledge the expertise of council members. Utilize their ability to move in the direction to fulfill these needs. Keep a constant vigil over the attitude in an effort to prevent the "pulling apart" that seems to exist now. Encourage leaders and citizens to work together much like a company can utilize volunteer workers even if their skills are limited. Utilize the services of the population, and seek outside sources when necessary. Bring in clean industry. Increase the tax base by total volume, not by raising taxes on citizens. Create growth of a permanent nature, not seasonal. Equalize the ratio of real estate businesses to other industry."

WHITE: "Work with the water department, Salt River Project, private entities, as well as the federal government, to find new water sources. Have planning committees work on long-term plans for growth."

5. What is the biggest challenge the town faces and how do you plan to address it?

MURPHY: "Public confidence. I see this as the major obstacle to addressing any issue we face. The average citizen is confused about our water status as a result of conflicting information, different interpretation of water reports and the entrenched positions of individuals with competing interests. Citizens deserve to know the facts about every issue. It is still a small town and the average citizen is not as dumb as some people in government think they are. How will (I) address this problem? First, I will have local town hall meetings every quarter to encourage our citizens to discuss their concerns and issues without the formality and restrictions of a council meeting. This will be your opportunity to be heard. Second, I intend to instill in all town staff our duty to present 'the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth' when we give information to the people we serve."

SEXTON: "The biggest challenge in town is to bring the citizens and leaders to a more agreeable relationship with each other. Leaders must earn the citizens' confidence. The citizens will be much more cooperative if they feel their input is being utilized. Remove (gracefully) the dictatorial approach. Work on consensus. The issues that need attention will be much more easily solved if the techniques and strategy of the leaders are mutual with that of the citizens. The citizens must pay for all projects. The council has to take this into account and keep within reason. The council needs to demonstrate their creative abilities in establishing a more 'business friendly' attitude that the citizens accept openly. Rather than pulling apart, which prevents or slows down growth and increase in revenue, the minds must start to work together for a greater good of the town. The individual issues such as water, growth, taxes, and others will be solved in a much more satisfactory manner if there is positive attitude and consensus."

WHITE: "Calming the fears brought about by false information about our water supplies. Providing citizens with regular information on issues facing the town."

6. Where do you stand on the issue of growth?

MURPHY: "Growth in Payson is primarily affected by the economy, land availability and the natural resources required to sustain quality of life. Growth is affected by the prevailing economic conditions nationally and locally. Government often creates more problems when it attempts to artificially stimulate growth or create roadblocks to stop it. The past 10 years we have seen a growth rate of about 500 new residents per year. In spite of water concerns, increasing fees and the demise of the Payson IV Land Exchange, a thriving economy and a consumer demand to live here have continued Payson's growth. However, we must face the reality of providing the water we need for our existing residents and the commitments (to) future water users."

SEXTON: "Growth is inevitable, whether we like it or not. Healthy, calculated and disciplined growth is vital. Otherwise, growth and water will be a problem. Business must grow if Payson is to be a hub of northern Gila County. Payson leadership will have to actively seek businesses that will move to a rural setting. They are out there, (but) bringing them in will take cooperation and dedication on the part of all. The citizens will have to visualize the profits of businesses which the leaders try to bring to Payson. Together, positive decisions can be made."

WHITE: "I support planned growth. We need to build on infill lots before looking elsewhere."

7. Anything else voters should know about you, your positions on the issues, etc.?

MURPHY: "I never decide how I will vote on an issue until I have heard the public's comments. I do my homework and ask questions so that I know what I think about each issue prior to the meeting, but I owe the citizens of this community the respect and forum for their views on every issue the council decides. As mayor, I will include all councilmembers in the ceremonial and special committees the town works with. All members were elected to serve you and they should share in the works and benefits of that service. I will always recognize other elected officials and community leaders at public events not just my buddies. At council meetings, I will listen to all sides of the debate and try to address the pros and cons of each issue. The mayor should not even vote unless it is to break a tie. I will recognize each councilmember in the order they request to speak. In addition, citizens will be asked to fill out a speaker's form when they want to address an issue. This will help me allow adequate time for each issue important to you not what is important to the council or me. I will run the meeting smoothly, effectively and with respect for all citizens."

SEXTON: "As I said before, I have no hidden agendas. I have no ax to grind. I want to serve the people of this community because I want it to be a wonderful place for all of us to live. This includes the long-time residents and the newcomers, the old and the young, the rich and the poor."

WHITE: "I support economic development. I will open town hall every other Saturday from 8 a.m. till 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to listen to citizens who don't have an opportunity to come to town meetings or write letters. I will make sure all town staff is user friendly to all citizens. I will ask the new council to approve a new budget police to save the taxpayers money."

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