Six Council Hopefuls Discuss The Area's Issues

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A total of six candidates are running in the March 12 primary election for the three seats on the Payson Town Council being vacated by Ken Murphy, Hoby Herron and Jim Spencer, whose terms are expiring. The candidates are:

Judy Buettner

Buettner, who says she wants to further the vision of Payson as a strong, healthy community meeting the needs of all its citizens, has four children, four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

She has a degree in accounting and is a retired business administrator who has been active for many years in the Republican Party.

Robert Henley

Henley, who wants to address the challenges facing the town by aggressively seeking and analyzing information and then making a reasoned decision, has two grown daughters. He has a masters degree in business administration and is retired from a management position in the high-technology industry.

Andy Kaiser

Kaiser, who wants to "participate in the development of a prosperous Payson as an economic hub of northern Gila County," has three children and five grandchildren. He has a degree in economics and owned a specialty printing and manufacturing business in Vermont prior to retiring.

Ken Knapp

Knapp, who stands for "taking care of our own first, with growth coming second," has one son and two grandchildren. His higher education is in business administration and he worked for Arizona Public Service for 25 years five of them in management.

Dick Reese

Reese, who wants to reach out to all segments of the Payson community "listening, learning, responding and representing," has three children and nine grandchildren. His degree is in business and electrical engineering, and he founded and served as CEO of a leading construction project management company.

John Wilson

Wilson, who says he is running for town council for a simple reason he cares, has seven children and 14 grandchildren. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, he is a certified public accountant who retired from a 32-year career with the Internal Revenue Service.

Each of the candidates responded to a set of questions posed by the Payson Roundup. The first three questions, which focused on personal information and qualifications, and the candidates' responses appeared in the Friday, Jan. 18 issue of the Roundup.

Following, in a linear, easy-to-follow format, are the last three questions, all focused on issues facing Payson, and responses:

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

BUETTNER: The major challenges, which are equal in my opinion, are a continued availability of water and a strong economy to provide for all our citizens.

We must continue to improve our stewardship of water resources by aggressively pursuing new water sources, investigating water exchange opportunities and providing incentive programs for low water use fixtures, both commercial and residential. We must educate the public on water usage. We need clean, light industry, strong retail sales and a skilled workforce to provide a healthy and vigorous economy to meet the needs and desires of our citizens. We must encourage commercial investments that provide sufficient wages to allow our citizens to enjoy a decent lifestyle.

HENLEY: We cannot develop effective solutions to our challenges if we do not work together as a community on these issues. There is a great disagreement on how these major challenges should be addressed. We must stop bickering among ourselves and have a reasonable and open dialogue on the issues. This is our biggest challenge. Water resources, business development, street and road improvements and quality of life and other issues can be addressed and good solutions can be derived if we all work together with a common goal to solve these problems. Periodic Town Hall meetings and frequent updates are excellent methods to help end the divisive environment here in Payson.

KAISER: Payson's biggest challenge is to provide effective planning, and action to solve its ongoing water resource problems. The town has, to date, demonstrated an ability to keep pace with water demand. There is need, however, for town leadership to communicate with its citizens in a manner that will develop confidence that past successes in expanding potential available water resources will continue in the future. This means clear, concise reporting of plans and actions, not platitudes. We should encourage free and open discussion and debate on the water issue and require town administration to fully disclose the circumstances that exist.

KNAPP: WATER! Do we have enough or not? This question has to be answered by the water department with figures from the Southwest Groundwater Report. Then we have roads and storm drains. We need maintenance on many of them, using HURF funds and budgeted money that will actually be spent on these projects. On the spending issue, we need more thought on the priorities here. Once a budget is passed, funds should not be moved from one department to another. Credibility is also a big problem in Payson between the elected people and the town staff and the citizens. We need real teamwork without the egos. It's amazing how much mankind can accomplish when no one is looking for credit or building monuments for personal legacies.

REESE: Unifying our interests and efforts. On one hand genuine concerns are not being presented with objectivity, calmness and clarity. On the other, well presented or not Town government is not respectful, attentive and responsive. I will insist that the town manager manage, with emphasis on development of a business plan that contains realistic goals, objectives and strategies for achieving results we have never seen before. Among those strategies must be regular forums for hearing the concerns of people and then arm-in-arm moving forward.

WILSON: Payson is a wonderful town. Together we can make it even better. Many of our residents find the cost of housing to be out of their reach. One of my main priorities is to fill that need. My vision includes a desirable subdivision composed of duplexes, triplexes and other multiple unit dwellings. Multiple units will reduce the cost of each home. This subdivision will include recreational facilities for its young residents. I will also support replacement of sub-standard housing, as it becomes available.

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

BUETTNER: A community must be progressive to remain healthy and viable. With reasonable, forward thinking leadership, managed growth can be achieved without sacrificing Payson's unique qualities. I support and will encourage in-fill construction as opposed to large subdivisions. I feel strongly that we must find a way to encourage development of housing for all levels of affordability. This will encourage working families to stay in Payson and provide a good pool of employees for our businesses and service industries to draw from.

HENLEY: Growth is an inevitable part of Payson's future. We can preserve our quality of life by managing the growth through consistent planning and zoning. A growth rate of 3 to 4 percent seems reasonable. However, we need to ensure the Town has adequate water resources to support this growth before it happens. Therefore we should be developing stronger relationships with those regional groups that have water, the U.S. Forest Service, Salt River Project, the Tonto Apache Tribe and others. From these relationships, Payson can derive a long-term solution to our water needs.

KAISER: I believe Payson's growth must be carefully orchestrated within the limitations of its capabilities. Our focus should be on our role as a regional center to expand our retail business and sales tax base, to further develop educational opportunities including vocational training, to broaden the availability of professional services, to attract light industry that will enhance employment opportunities, and to meet the social, recreational and cultural needs of senior citizens and young people. I believe this can be accomplished, over time, in a manner that will enhance the lives of all of us without creating burdens for our people.

KNAPP: It must be managed growth, based on the availability of water (once we get a credible answer), and the condition of infrastructure. We must seek Forest Service help by asking that land swaps be put on hold. We need to encourage in-fill building on the vacant lots in town. We must insist that developers doing land divisions of 20 or more lots bring in new well water from outside the town limits, either from private property or Forest Service land.

REESE: If we can agree that there can be no standing still we're going forward or backward in life I'm in favor of going forward. The issue is how. I believe most all of us would support plans and commitments to invest in efforts to make Payson an ever more comfortable place to live. What does that mean? It means planning and managing growth smartly, conservatively, respecting the interests of existing businesses and citizens within all economic levels.

WILSON: I have seen Payson grow from a small town to a fine community. I have seen our leaders vary in their positions from a negative attitude toward growth to an acceptance of extremely high growth. This town will continue to grow, in population if not in land area. I will provide that balance for our local residents, while encouraging new business and controlling growth. We need to monitor and guide this growth to preserve the "quality of life" that attracted us to move here.

6. What other issues do you plan to focus on if elected and why?

BUETTNER: Improved relationship between town leadership and citizens. I prefer to be proactive rather than reactive, and believe a lot of uncertainty and differences can be alleviated by having informal town hall gatherings that allow dialog between town leadership and citizens. I also am concerned about our youth and what their needs, concerns and desires are, especially outside of sports. I was a foster mother for over nine years and have a special affinity for this age group. To this end I am talking to teens whenever possible and hope to work on their behalf.

HENLEY: Business development is the foundation for expanding out tax base and creating jobs for our citizens. We need reasonable and consistent administration of town building codes and permits to support businesses.

Other issues include getting the correct information to the citizens on our water resources and other important matters, effective financial management, focusing on street and drainage improvements, support of the town's youth programs, and promoting a more citizen/business friendly environment within town government.

I will do the research, listen to all parties involved with the issues, and analyze the information collected to make informed decisions.

KAISER: A high priority must be placed upon improving the condition of our streets, including creation of in-town alternate routes to alleviate the traffic problems that progressively are becoming more serious.

But a basic overriding objective should be to replace the disharmony, dissent, disdain, disregard and disunity that appear to stand in the way of Payson's progress with positive mutual respect on the part of all of us. This is clearly a leadership responsibility that must be undertaken by our elected officials and by our town staff members. Without this, achievement of our objectives will be difficult, if not impossible.

KNAPP: The Parks and Recreation budget for over $14 million in the next five years and Green Valley expansion using taxpayer money for land acquisition. We need to look very hard at the monies being spent on Main Street redevelopment. We are currently spending $85,000 to $88,000 for a director (salary, office rent, phone, benefits, transportation, including a new Chevy Blazer). This is an area where private money should be used. We have become so engrossed in "future vision" that we are neglecting the businesses that are here.

An All-Age Recreation Center. We need to make sure that there are no duplications of services and equipment, for example, computers, library services, indoor pool, gym, expensive meeting rooms. Users should pay for services.

Fence mending. We have seriously alienated good allies and neighbors, Gila County, the Tonto Apache Tribe, SRP, the Forest Service, and sadly, The Diamond Point-Star Valley Coalition. We need to be good neighbors.

Town staff and employees. We need to work with them on attitude, morale, customer service and to inspire them to strive for excellence and to work as a team. We need to replace an atmosphere of secrecy with one of openness and forthrightness.

Economic Development. We should strive to get good paying jobs in Payson but insist on clean companies locating here. We should minimize incentives to attract them because Payson doesn't need to "give away the farm."

REESE: Building better relationships, with the Tonto Apache Tribe, Gila County, Salt River Project and the Forest Service, communicating our mutual desires and plans;

Tapping existing knowledge and talent resources within the community of retired people, involving those qualified to participate, innovative planning, directing and supporting efforts to ever improve our quality of life here.

Youth and inspiring young people to set goals and learn how to make them reality. I will volunteer to meet with parents, teachers and students to guide them in directions of personal accountability and achievement.

WILSON: Community Center: I will work toward providing a facility for the enjoyment of all residents.

Water: Aggressively seek alternative sources of water.

Traffic: Start the process now to find ways to alleviate traffic congestion.

Economic Development: to diversify our economy to broaden our economic base so we will not be overly dependent on any one segment of our economy.

Street Signs: Secure larger and reflective street signs that can be seen and read at night.

Divisiveness: I will work toward elimination of divisiveness between citizens and town leaders.

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