With a move to Palm Springs looming on the horizon, Ray Schum expressed pride in his accomplishments during six years on the Payson Town Council, the last two as mayor.
Schum, who is soon leaving town for good, believes his greatest achievement was the leadership style by which he governed -- a style he adamantly believes is sorely absent today.
"The mayors of towns and cities, the CEOs of corporations, and military commanders all have the same thing in common ... solving problems that cannot be solved down lower," Schum said. "But when you originate those problems, where can you go for help -- and that's what we've got right now."
Referring to Councilor Robert Henley's recent decision to abandon a contentious police department audit that Mayor Ken Murphy also supported, Schum said he hoped that council dissidents might finally be learning that lesson.
"I'm glad that Murphy and Henley may be seeing the light -- that we don't create problems at our level," he said. "We're supposed to make them go away."
A consensus builder
Schum said morale is low among town staffers.
"What I particularly feel good about was that I always had council support on every issue that I supported, and that I also had 100 percent support from the entire town staff," he said. "I consider that leadership, and that is lacking.
"Every day I run into somebody (from the town staff, who says), ‘Boy Ray, you don't know the difference between when you were mayor and what we've got going on today. We don't know where we're at, what we're doing. They want all kinds of information, but whatever happens to it we never know. We're spinning our wheels in every direction in the world,' and that didn't happen under my tenure."
Force behind new library
Schum also said he was proud of his role in getting the new library built.
"I never let the library issue die," he said. "Every time a stumbling block was put in the way, I stood behind (the library) until we got it, and today that library is the most important thing in this town.
"People said we didn't need the library in this day and age of computers, but they're putting out 100,000 circulations a year over there."
That makes the Payson Public Library by far the busiest in Gila County, and Schum is still rankled because county support doesn't reflect that reality.
"There are nine libraries in this county and the other eight combined have a circulation almost equal to what Payson has alone," he said. "Yet when you take the money from the county library tax, the other eight get a total of $4.44 per circulation and Payson gets $1.27. That ain't right."
There was a time not long ago when Schum thought he might run for mayor again, or even for county supervisor. But recent health issues have dictated the move to Palm Springs where he and his wife, Lee, can be closer to their family.
‘Image of an old man'
"I would be too proud to be the mayor and give the image of an old man, which I am getting to be," he said. "Otherwise I would have run for mayor again just out of obligation."
Schum believes his solitary fight over county redistricting would have made a run for county supervisor successful. His redistricting plan, which would have given northern Gila County two supervisors instead of one, was ultimately rejected.
"I lost that redistricting fight, but in the end I really believe I was right all the way through," he said. "And I sincerely believe if I ran for county supervisor I would win hands down.
"But I'm going to be 82 in three months and that's a four-year term, and I don't want to be driving to Globe two to three times a week at my age."
Shaping the man
Schum was born in Dale, Ind. and grew up during the Great Depression.
"When I was growing up nobody had nothing," he recalled. "I wound up in the Marine Corps in 1940 before the big war started."
During a distinguished military career that spanned 26 years, Schum developed the philosophy that he believes made him successful.
"I discovered I could get more out of doing if I just would," he said. "You can always do better than you thought you could if you just would, and I've lived by that philosophy a long time."
After retiring from the Marines, Schum spent 20 years working for Deutsch, a company that makes electrical connectors for missiles, rockets and airplanes.
Adopting a new home
Schum moved to Payson to retire 13 years ago, and for the first time in his life, he had both the time and inclination to get involved in his community.
"I failed at retirement," he said with a laugh.
One thing led to another, and he found himself in the middle of a new career -- politics. Now that he's moving on, he feels like he's back where he started when he arrived in Payson.
"I need to start thinking about retiring," he said with an impish smile.
But he's leaving with few regrets.
"I consider myself a man of high integrity and loyalty, and those are good qualities that are somehow missing (today)," he said.
He is also leaving a lot of good friends, but he's taking fond memories.
"What I'll miss most is the people who come up to me in the supermarket and say, ‘Hi, Ray,' and I don't even know them," he said.
"... That makes you feel good about where you've been and what you've accomplished and what you've left behind. It's a legacy."
Schum also points with pride to an award he was just presented during Memorial Day ceremonies at Green Valley Park. There, the Marine Corps League awarded him the Distinguished Citizen Medal - Gold for "upholding the highest traditions of the United States Marine Corps" and making "significant contributions to his community and nation by his generous service."
In accepting the award, the highest the league offers, Schum put his life in perspective.
"It almost overwhelms me to be so highly rewarded for my efforts, because all I was doing was living out one of my personal beliefs -- that every one of us who is successful owes our community some of our talents and skills ... All of my efforts here in Payson have been payback time for the many successes we have enjoyed in the past."
And then he said goodbye to the community he will always consider home:
"As we fade into the sunset, we shall always fondly remember the favorable relations and good friends we have made here in Payson. Payson has been good to both of us."
Arizona Flag Capital unfurls for Flag Day
A flag-bedecked parade highlights a day of festivities Saturday as Payson, the official Flag Capital of Arizona, celebrates Flag Day.
The parade leaves the Wal-Mart parking lot at 8:30 a.m., wends down Highway 87, then onto Main Street en route to Green Valley Park where a special flag ceremony will be held at 9:30 a.m. Entries include Harley-Davidson motorcycles, classic cars and 4x4s from several Rim country organizations.
The flag ceremony will be held at the Veterans Memorial at the park. Entertainment will be followed by a flag-raising ceremony and the pledge of allegiance.
The parade and flag ceremony will be preceded by a continental breakfast served by the Knights of Columbus that begins at 7 a.m. in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The breakfast is free, but donations for the Children's Miracle Network will be accepted.
Following the flag ceremony, a mini-fair will be held in the Wal-Mart parking lot from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Payson Mayor Ken Murphy and other local dignitaries will take turns in a dunk tank, and fun fair fare like cotton candy, snow cones and popcorn will be available. Proceeds from the mini-fair will also go to the Children's Miracle Network.
Rim country residents also are encouraged to display American flags at their homes on Saturday.