The Roundup selected 10 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.
Here, in their own words, are their insights.
Town of Payson
Title: Member of Payson Town Council
How I got here: We are in our seventh year. When we retired, we wanted to experience a new environment, one warmer than Minnesota. We visited Arizona repeatedly, asking residents all over the state where they would live if they could. Many said Payson. We wanted a community where we would feel comfortable, welcomed and could contribute.
Assets and Strengths: Payson still retains a small town atmosphere, with caring and giving citizens. Witness the unusual level of volunteerism and the spontaneous, heartfelt response to the Rodeo-Chediski Fire.
Issues/Challenges: Clearly the most challenging issue is that of water management and development. The forest's resulting vulnerability to the bark beetle has caused a crisis that not only threatens our beautiful mountain environment, but our economy and our lives. This is a tremendous challenge and will take the efforts and cooperation of citizens and government on all levels to resolve.
My Role: I am dedicated to educating myself in depth regarding the issues and challenges facing our community. I attend countless meetings and seminars, read a great deal, and am involved in many ways. I have been appointed a board member of the Northern Arizona Municipal Water Users Association. NAMWUA will present a strong, unified lobby to local and federal government regarding our water needs and concerns.
My Vision: I envision Payson as a progressive community that retains its small town atmosphere, where residents of varied opinions work together. I see Payson as a vibrant community that respects all residents, educates and retains our young people, appreciates and utilizes our older citizens, supports our working parents and children, and respects and supports our public service personnel.
Town of Payson
Title: Payson Town Manager
How I got here: I came here from Wickenburg where I was also the town manager. I've been here since September, 2002.
Assets and Strengths: Our climate, setting/location, and the strengths of our institutions and business community.
Issues/Challenges: Upgrading the local infrastructure and providing an enhanced, long-term water supply.
My Role: I have over 25 years experience in dealing with local infrastructure issues. As town manager, I will be actively involved in solutions.
My Vision: A friendly, welcoming, well-run community in which people enjoy living and like to visit.
Title: Main Street/Green Valley Redevelopment Project Manager
How I got here: Growing up in a small, rural community, it was always my desire to return to that environment at some point in my life. In 1996, I moved from Tucson to Show Low where I was director of the Main Street program for over three years. When the job opportunity became available in Payson, I was thrilled to be able to apply and was hired in January, 2001.
Assets and Strengths: We all recognize that Payson is a beautiful little community with lots of potential. The location, climate and entire environment place it among the best in the country. Most impressive, however, are the people and that's where we get our strength. This was particularly evident in this past year of hardships on the mountain. The large majority of people here are knowledgeable, giving and willing to help. From a Main Street perspective, we have unlimited possibilities for creating a viable economic driver that also preserves our history.
Issues/Challenges: Payson is facing issues that most towns face as they grow - issues such as water exploration, quality jobs, maintaining a low crime rate and managed growth. I have confidence in the people who have the responsibility of dealing with these issues on a daily basis. It is much more difficult to actually participate in the solutions than to look at them from the outside and criticize.
My Role: It was my desire, from the beginning, to be first and foremost a member of this community. As such, you can see through the eyes of everyone else. Next, would be to be a team member and leader - to research, investigate, direct and suggest proven ways to accomplish our goals.
My Vision: A harmonious, economically strong, aesthetically pleasing community that we are all proud to call home. If I had a magic wand I would:
- Have everyone working together to build our community, not finding fault or working against each other.
- Create an area with a reliable tax base - a place where local residents and tourists could come to shop and enjoy. We would have jobs for young people and local dollars for streets and infrastructure.
- Create more events like the Electric Light Parade, where people come together in the spirit of culture, faith and old-time values.
Payson Public Library
Title: Director Payson Public Library
How I got here: I have lived in Payson for 25 years. My former husband has a wonderful, large extended family here. We had been coming to Payson since we were in our teens. Our family came up to visit. A friend of the family had a machine shop for sale. We bought it and moved here from Kingman.
Assets and Strengths: Payson's greatest asset is its ability to come together and support those in need. Over the years there have been many. The most recent were the victims of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire. We all stepped up, providing a safe haven to stay, food and clothing. Even the animals were treated to our Payson hospitality.
Issues/Challenges: Bringing small industry to this community, which creates a stable financial environment. Our youth grow up, graduate and leave to pursue higher education. They don't come back because there are very few middle income to higher level paying jobs available. The greatest percentage of jobs is level-entry service jobs. The cost of living is high. We are losing our future community leaders to other communities.
My Role: I have two loves: my family and the library. I view the library as an educational facility. It affords all of us the opportunity to better ourselves. Without an educated populace we don't have anyone to work in our small industries and be leaders in our community. One of the things industries look at before moving to a community is its schools and library because education is important to them and their employees.
My Vision: A healthy community that embraces all genders, ages, and economic levels. Working together, setting aside our own personal agendas. Each of us realizing that it takes all of us to make it happen. We are all part of the whole.
Town of Payson
Title: Mayor town of Payson, Executive Director, Manzanita Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
How I got here: I have lived in Arizona for 48 years and in Payson for 19 years. I have been coming to the Rim country all my life and I love it!
Assets and Strengths: The number of civic organizations, churches and other community groups that volunteer to make Payson a better community is one of our greatest strengths. The beauty and location of Payson is another. Payson is a getaway for thousands of people.
Issues/Challenges: The greatest issue facing Payson is water. There is not one northern Arizona community that does not face a serious water problem for their current and/or future needs. The long-term solution lies in the hands of the state and federal governments having the resolve to help small, rural communities. Economic issues are the second greatest challenge we face. Many businesses are struggling and the town's projected tax revenues are down 6 percent. The forest closures and fires have exacerbated the national impact on our economy.
The third major issue is the forest. Between fire and the bark beetle we stand to lose our forest.
My Role: To promote Payson's political agenda regarding forest health, the economy and securing an adequate water supply. To lead the town government by evaluating what we do and why we do it. To spend our tax money in the most effective and efficient way possible. To put the power back in the hands of the people and limit the control and intrusiveness of government into our lives. As the executive director of Manzanita, to provide a safe, caring skilled nursing facility for our seniors.
My Vision: A community that is economically stable, with opportunities for young and old. A healthy forest that is ecologically balanced and used for the renewable resources and recreation opportunities it holds. I would like to see the festivals have the fun and attendance they used to have years ago. I would like to see a town with an adequate water supply, a covered event center, better roads, better jobs and housing for the working classes.
Title: Gila County Manager
How I got here: I moved to the Rim country in 1996 after I accepted the position of Director of Finance for Gila County. My wife and I chose this area because of its location, and how much it reminded us of growing up in western New York state.
Assets and Strengths: Our most obvious asset is the natural beauty surrounding us. It is yet to be seen, however, if our forests can survive the drought, bark beetles and the feared wildfires. Our strength can be seen in the strong sense of community and the shared appreciation of what nature has provided for us.
Issues/Challenges: The major issue is the drought, which is causing inadequate water supplies as well as the death of our forest. The biggest challenge for Gila County as a whole is preserving our way of life, historically and culturally, while maintaining our viability by attracting suitable commercial/industrial enterprises to offset the economic losses from the demise of our logging, ranching and copper industries.
My Role: In addition to my day-to-day involvement in county operations, I am working closely with our legislators and the Governor's office, the County Supervisors Association, and the Eastern Environmental Counties Organization to promote a healthy, well-managed forest and watershed.
My Vision: My vision for the Rim country is for the area to be a vibrant, dynamic community with a strong economic base surrounded by a healthy National Forest.
Title: Principal, Payson Center for Success High School
How I got here: In 1996 my husband and I realized that the fast-paced, stressful city life we were living was not what we wanted. Ironically, at the same time I met a PUSD administrator at a conference who was writing the proposal for the district-sponsored charter school. I applied for the position and feel so fortunate to be here doing something I love so much.
Assets and Strengths: The assets are the endless opportunities in this beautiful town. There is so much potential here. A major strength is the people who live here. Rim country residents are passionate, colorful, and very diverse, but most importantly, they are some of the most caring, well-intentioned people I have every met.
Issues/Challenges: I feel our biggest hurdle in education is lack of adequate funding to sustain, let alone expand programs. We still have many educational needs that span preschool through the post-secondary level. It doesn't matter if we bring industry to our community if we can't provide a talented workforce to support that industry.
My Role: Every educator is an influential leader and our major role is to instill trust in our constituents. My role, as an administrator, is to develop an institution where students, parents, staff and community members have faith and evidence that we are providing the best education possible for every student.
My Vision: I envision a seamless preschool-16 education system that is fully utilized, more young people valuing education and staying in school to earn their diplomas, and a community that can offer the educated populous jobs with enough financial security to provide a comfortable life.
Title: Fire Chief, town of Payson
How I got here: I have been in Payson five years now. After being with the Tucson Fire Department for 20 years, I wanted to become a fire chief in a smaller, attractive community. After searching for three years, I found out that Payson was soliciting for a fire chief and came up to visit. It was love at first sight.
Assets and Strengths: One great asset that I have been interfacing with is the "intelligence resource" in Payson. There are outstanding individuals in the fire department, town and the surrounding communities that care about this area, are very bright, and have the motivation to work towards community goals that improve Payson. Additionally, Payson's location is one of its strengths - not too far from a metropolis and international airport, and positioned in some of the finest, most beautiful country in the nation.
Issues/Challenges: Payson and the surrounding communities have reached a watershed moment in their histories. Due to projections that the West is facing less snow and rainfall for the next several years than in the previous 50 years, the Rim country's current and future water supplies are a critical issue. Secondly, and in part due to the above average precipitation the last 50 years, our forest health is now in jeopardy. These two issues threaten our safety and quality of life in an unprecedented fashion.
My Role: The focus of my efforts is to keep everyone safe and to keep this region viable. This is being accomplished by creating discussions, programs and partnerships that result in significant and positive impacts for the health and welfare of all the citizens of and visitors to Payson. These discussions, programs and partnerships have evolved from being strictly local to regional, county, state and national arenas, and Payson is benefiting to a much higher degree, particularly with respect to our forest health.
My Vision: As an optimist, my vision for Payson is that it will continue being a wonderful community for people of all ages and walks of life. People will feel safe here and enjoy an excellent cross section of cultural events. It will enjoy a strong college presence, be solid economically and ensure that a long-term water supply exists. Lastly, I see Payson attracting clean, technology-based businesses that will be strong partners in the community.
Title: Former mayor and citizen of Payson
How I got here: Lee and I arrived in Payson on Sept. 29, 1989 -- my 68th birthday -- to retire following a working career of 50 years that included both the military and corporate America.
Assets and Strengths: First and foremost are the people who work and live in our community. Our citizens are diverse in professional experience, education and culture, bringing much to make our community a better place to be. We are a small rural community, nestled in an evergreen forest that surrounds us, with all the amenities of modern day life. We have a history, deeply rooted in our pioneer past. I am particularly impressed that we are a caring town, always prepared to step forward to answer the community's needs.
Issues/Challenges: We will continue to face the issues that we have identified in the past, such as water, growth, fiscal management, community services, affordable housing, taxes and others that will be added to the list in the future. To avoid the polarization that we have experienced in the past, we must realize that points of view may differ and differing opinions must be respected and assessed for their redeeming value to the majority of citizens. Willing, cooperative and proactive effort, allowing for constructive criticism, will always stand the best chance of solving any major issue or challenge.
My Role: I bring a wealth of hands-on local town government knowledge and experience to the table. Accepting the responsibilities associated with leadership and a commitment to do the right thing have been and will always be my philosophy no matter in what capacity I serve the community.
My Vision: My vision is that Payson will continue to be a growing, vibrant community, firmly rooted in the experience of our past, acutely attuned to the world of today, and focused on a future of economic stability and a quality of life acceptable to all our citizens. We live in one of the most desirable rural areas of the state and have the potential, by working together, to develop our town to match our geographic and demographic status.
Title: Executive Director Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce
How I got here: I have lived in Payson for approximately 25 years, but I owned a cabin in Ellison Creek Summer Homes for 36 years. Prior to that, I came up with my parents in the summer.
Assets and Strengths: The visionary citizens of Payson are our greatest asset. Others include a forward-thinking town council, a responsive county supervisor, sound fiscal management and dedicated government employees -- as well as our parks, new library, beautiful weather, community college, hospital Hospice program and a good cross section of businesses.
Issues/Challenges: Water is high on the list, as it will be in every town in America. We must increase conservation, exploration and recharging. Any decline in tourism due to another forest fire or state budget cuts will devastate our local economy. Payson and the surrounding communities need jobs, imported dollars, and a convention center.
My Role: I have promoted low-flow toilets for years. I have apprised our residents and the legislature of our dependence on a strong, tourist-based economy, the economic value of the Tonto Natural Bridge, and the need to support local commerce. By serving on many committees and advisory boards, I have tried to work for the common good and foster necessary change.
My Vision: Within five years, I envision the planting of 250,000 new trees, a 600-person convention center that is booked 200 days a year, a community college with 34 classrooms, day care, housing for students and a full time paid faculty of 14, the confirmation of another water supply zone, the Payson Roundup moving to new quarters, median home prices around $213,000, a new senior center built through community donations, and two new museums to display the state's best collection of fishing lures and Zane Grey artifacts. I can also envision 65 percent of the ponderosa pines dead without an extraordinary amount of moisture, litter will still be a problem, and traffic will be heavy in the summer due to increased tourism. All in all, this will be one of the best places to live in the United States.