Community Leader Moves To State Ranks

PAYSON PEOPLE

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Janice Chilton has been a community leader in the Rim country for many years. She started getting involved in making things in Northern Gila County better when she worked to get a turnaround for the school buses in Gisela.

From working on that project, her horizons and efforts expanded and now she is a newly confirmed member of the Arizona State Parks Board.

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Janice Chilton

"I was appointed back in December, but wasn't confirmed by the Senate until May 11," Chilton said.

The bus issue was what first led Chilton to become a community activist, but she said she has always voted. She said her father, a citizen of Canada, who became naturalized in the U.S., believed very strongly in the electoral process, so she feels he is the one who gave her the sense of duty she has to the community.

Chilton has been attending the regular meetings of the parks board since her appointment. She is replacing Suzanne Pfister on the seven-member board.

"The budget is the most pressing issue," Chilton said. "Everyone's feeling the crunch this year. It's why all the confirmations were put off until the end of the legislative session."

Chilton's term on the parks board is for six years, concluding in Dec. 2010.

This is the not the first state-level position she has held. She has served four other governors on different panels and commissions: Babbitt, Mecham, Mofford and Symington.

"I have achieved a lot of firsts for women in my life," Chilton said. She was the first woman to chair the Gila County Democratic Party and she was the first Native American woman to serve as vice chairperson of the Arizona Democratic Party, in fact she held that post at a time when she was the only Native American woman at that level in the national Democratic Party.

"I'm proudest of that -- since then there have been others," she said.

Chilton has since stepped back from that level of involvement in politics. She said she did so in order to do the best job she can for the parks.

"It's not about the party, but about the state," she said. The work she hopes to do is to preserve the parks for her children and grandchildren and make use of her grant reader skills to help the board.

"I'm just a regular person representing regular people," Chilton said.

She has lived in Arizona for 37 years and in the Payson area for 32 years. She is a widow with three children and two grandchildren.

Currently she is employed by the Mazatzal Casino. "My employer really likes to have (its) people do public service," she said.

She worked on Proposition 202 for the Tonto Apache Tribe in 2002 and served for several years on the Gila County Planning and Zoning Commission, serving as its vice chair at one point.

She has attended numerous Town Hall programs over the years and was a candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives in both 1996 and 1998.

In 1985 she received her most surprising honor, she said. She was named Payson Woman of the Year (Woman Who Cares).

Another surprise -- "For years people thought I was getting paid (for all the community projects). I was all volunteer," Chilton said.

Profile

Name: Janice Chilton

Occupation: Executive casino host

Employer: Mazatzal Casino

Age: 62

Birthplace: Tonasket, Wash.

Family: Three children, two grandchildren

Personal motto: Don't bother saying "no" to me.

Inspiration: My father. He was a naturalized citizen from Canada and believed in the election process so greatly.

Greatest feat: Speaking at the National Democratic Convention at the Indian Caucus in 1996 in Chicago.

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Antiquing

Three words that describe me best are ... persistent, smiling, optimistic

I don't want to brag but ... I've accomplished a lot of firsts for women.

The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Eleanor Roosevelt.

Luxury defined: There's nothing I really want.

Dream vacation spot: North central Washington for the summer.

Why Payson? My husband retired from the service and this was his home state.

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