(This is the first in a series of articles about the candidates for the Payson Town Council. At the conclusion of the series, the Roundup will publish a side-by-side comparison of the candidates' views on key issues selected by our readers.)
People who are surprised that the director of the Rim Country Literacy Program is running for the Payson Town Council don't know much about her background, because politics run deep in Su Connell's family.
Most of her relatives were Republicans, and many held elected office in her home state of Wisconsin, including her father who was both a state representative and senator.
Then there was Great Uncle Irving Lenroot, who served in the Wisconsin State Legislature and went on to become a U.S. Senator. When she first met future and current husband Jack, whose family was Irish and Democratic, an interesting conversation ensued with Jack's mother.
"His mother said, ‘What did you say your last name was?' When I told her, she said, ‘Oh my god,' and sat down.
"I asked her, ‘What's the matter?' She said, ‘Wait until the earth stops shaking. Jack's grandfather always called your Uncle Irving "that (expletive) Scandinavian Republican.'"
Connell explains it this way:
"I come from a political family, and I have had a vision about entering politics," she said. "Looking at the town of Payson and knowing and loving it and having been an active part in it for four years, I really think it's time, if I'm unhappy, to strike out and do something to change it."
Connell is unhappy about the discord over Star Valley water, and believes the current council could have handled the issue much better.
"That's the primary reason I'm running," she said. "I think that the town has lost its respect, and we need to build trust and open the doors of communication and listen to the people in the town of Payson, as well our neighbors to the north, south and east."
What would Connell do about the region's water woes?
"I believe we should focus all of our energy on getting the Blue Ridge water to Payson as quickly as possible, thus protecting the water supply of our friends and neighbors," she wrote in her campaign brochure.
"I think a consortium needs to be developed between and including the Tonto Apache Tribe, the Forest Service, Salt River Project, the people of Payson and our neighbors to the east and north, because together I think we can remove some of the boulders that are in the way of getting the water here -- we can find funding and move this project forward."
Connell is a realist about growth, but believes it can be better managed.
"Payson is going to grow," she said. "I want to help manage new growth and enhance current businesses in a way that allows Payson to maintain the small town, cozy atmosphere we all came here to enjoy."
Connell says the difference between her and other candidates is that she doesn't have an agenda and does not align herself with any particular group or cause.
"I will listen to the needs and requests of the people," she said. "I will be objective and, when necessary, will put aside my personal opinion in order to do what is best for Payson."
Connell's background includes 18 years working for a Wisconsin book publisher, and another 18 working for Procter & Gamble in Phoenix.
"I have had many years of professional experience managing people, budgets, timetables and developing diverse teams with common objectives," she explained.
Since retiring to Payson, she has served in a number of capacities, including being a member of the board of the Time Out Shelter and vice president of Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation Association. She is currently director of the Rim Country Literacy Program, and she participated in the Payson General Plan Workshop and in the mini-summit for sustainable economics/growth for rural Arizona.
For Connell, the immediate challenge is rebuilding trust between town government and Payson residents.
"Listening to opinions of voters, calmness, efficiency, accountability and respect should be the hallmarks of town government and each member of the town council," she said.
For more information, or to contribute to her campaign, Connell can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Web site is www.susanconnell.com.