About 75 curious voters turned out Oct. 25 to learn more about the candidates running in a variety of local, county, and state elections. A candidates forum was held Oct. 25 at the Tonto Apache gymnasium, sponsored by concerned Republicans of Gila County, and moderated by Clarice Christensen.
While there were 15 candidates present, the races that seemed to pique the most interest were the races for Gila County Sheriff and the Gila County Superintendent of Public Schools.
Incumbent Sheriff John Armer and challenger Kim Pound detailed their plans if elected sheriff.
"(The people) have a chance to send a message on Nov. 2 that you want a change," Pound said. "I'll provide an annual report. I'll hire good deputies, institute community programs and assessments. You should have a deputy respond when you call. You shouldn't be told that none are available."
When asked about his task force being under investigation, Armer responded, "We requested that DPS do an audit. It started before my tenure as sheriff."
When asked how many deputies each would like to see on duty at night in northern Gila County, Armer said he would like to have four.
Pound said he would implement the resident-deputy program that has worked in many other counties. A deputy would be assigned to a community and that would be his or her beat. Pound added he would implement a volunteer protection program to save the county money.
Incumbent Armida Bittner, and Linda O'Dell, candidates for superintendent of schools, were asked about their plans to modify funding in Gila County for schools, and about the high drop-out rate in Gila County.
"I have plans to modify funding that would impact programs," O'Dell said. "I will go after grants. I will address the goals to meet the needs of all the students. We have a high dropout rate. The attitudes in our schools need to change."
Bittner replied, "We have a number of funding sources. Some of our money comes from federal grants."
Bittner said that her office offers General Educational Development Tests to prisoners.
"I have my GED, I show it at our graduations," she said. "I'm committed to those who speak English and those who don't. My commitment is to help students and teachers."
"I'm challenging 16 years -- (Bittner has) had 16 years to bring the schools up," O'Dell countered. "I'll travel the county. I want to be part of the solution."
Sam Brewer and Roger Freeman are candidates for Payson constable.
When asked if there would be a conflict of interest between the office of mayor and constable, since Sam's wife is Mayor Barbara Brewer, Sam said, "There will be no conflict. We are intelligent enough to keep the offices separate."
Something that Brewer and Freeman do not agree on are the training and backgrounds of constable.
"I was a law enforcement officer in Phoenix, then I was a policeman here in Payson for seven years," Brewer said. "There are certain situations where my law enforcement training would help."
Freeman said he didn't think law enforcement training was necessary.
"The constable's office is very important," Brewer said. "It works with other agencies. I have worked with them in the past. I know the area well. I have lived here for 31 years."
The two candidates for County Supervisor District Three are Shirley Dawson and Bill Fogel.
"I bring a lot to the table," Fogle said. "I have a lot of government background. I believe in teamwork. I will continue on the building blocks of the supervisors we have now."
"Your tax dollars are sacred dollars," Dawson said. "I will listen to your needs. The taxpayers own this county. I'm here to serve."
Tommie Cline Martin, candidate for Gila County supervisor, District One, said, "The most important part of this job is to go as far as you can with what you have to bring economic development such as timber, cattle, and mining."
At another point Martin said she wants to see healthy forests, watersheds, and grasslands for Gila County. She wants to see profitable and environmentally-acceptable industries.
Jim Whitely, Martin's opponent, was unable to attend.