Candidate Says He Would Heal Rift With Star Valley

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Charlie Smith, the vice president and general manager of Lifestar Ambulance, is running for the Payson Town Council because he has been frustrated working for change from the outside.

"So I thought I'd try working from the inside," Smith said.

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Charlie Smith

Specifically, he accuses the current council of not studying issues thoroughly or questioning staff recommendations critically.

"We purchased (Lifestar) here in 2001, and I've voted in each of the elections, and I've gone to different meetings, and I've interacted with the politicians here in town, and I've seen over the last few years a lot of knee-jerk decisions being made," he said. "It seems like they're not sitting back and really thinking through each of the issues and they're not getting answers to a lot of the questions.

It's a very simple process, Smith believes.

"Don't rely on the information just because town staff is saying, ‘This is what we found,'" he said. "Show me the hard facts. Can I read the report? Can I read the analysis? Can I look at the study? Can I look at the statistics to make my own determination because I'm representing the people here in town?

"I've been to a few town council meetings where the staff says, ‘We did this study and here are our findings,' and not one council member has asked a question."

In fact, Smith thinks the people should set the agendas, not the town staff.

"I wish we had a ‘yes' and ‘no' button in every household so we can get the public's opinion on issues," he said. "Let's poll the public: What do you want us to do? Do you want the streets done? Do you want the water first?

"Then we can set our agenda by the wishes of the public. These are simple things and I don't understand why we can't do them."

Smith believes this council has failed to grasp the concept of "community."

"The number one issue in this election is choosing a council and mayor who are not only concerned about the welfare of the people of Payson, but also recognize that Payson is the hub of the Rim Country -- that besides just the town of Payson you have a lot more communities in the area, and a lot of residents who don't live in Payson, but who shop for groceries and clothes and fuel and cars here."

Specifically, Smith says the next council needs to take the initiative to heal the rift the old council created by agreeing to accept water from Star Valley to fuel the town's growth.

"One of the first things in my mind that needs to be done is a resolution where the town of Payson recognizes the town of Star Valley and further resolves that the two communities will work together to provide for the needs of everybody -- not only in those towns but everybody else in the Rim Country," he said. "How else are we going to get rid of this rift between the two communities, and Payson is going to have to take the first step because of what has happened in the past over the whole water issue."

Smith believes it was "totally inappropriate" for the town of Payson to enter into an agreement to take a neighbor's water.

"I understand the way the codes are written that say, ‘Bring the water in and you can build,'" he said. "But I think we need to be a little more stringent in regards to where it comes from.

"(We need to say) we're not going to steal from somebody else's community, (especially when) it may also be an aquifer for our community. In a way, we're taking our own water."

Smith believes the current council can learn from the people who accomplished the incorporation of Diamond Star-Star Valley.

"I went to the incorporation meeting the (Gila County) Board of Supervisors held in Payson," he said. "I was awestruck by the heart that community had in working to get done what they needed to get done for the betterment of their community."

Smith has never run for public office, but he was appointed by the governor to the state Emergency Medical Services Council in 1995 and has been reappointed for six consecutive terms. A native Arizonan, Smith served five years in the U.S. Coast Guard, was a deputy sheriff for Pinal County and a volunteer firefighter in Apache Junction.

"I went to work for Southwest Ambulance in 1983, stayed until 2000, then branched out on my own," he said. "I've been in corporate leadership for well over 20 years, and my whole life has been dedicated to public service.

"Lifestar is a name change from Canyon State Ambulance. We bought the company in 2001."

Smith is proud of what he has accomplished with Lifestar, turning around a company with a negative image in the Rim Country. He believes the same philosophy that led to an ambulance insurance plan that supplements health insurance will serve the residents of Payson well if he is elected to the town council.

"What Mr. (Chuck) Heron (Diamond Star councilor) said is perfect," he said: ‘the important thing is that people count.'"

(This story is part of a series of articles about the candidates for the Payson Town Council. The mail-in only ballot primary is March 14.)

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