They cheered, applauded, and a few even cried.
After a 10-month battle, that for some was all consuming, the town of Diamond Star was born Tuesday morning when the Gila County Board of Supervisors approved its incorporation by a 3-0 vote.
An emotional Supervisor Shirley Dawson, whose district includes Diamond Star, made the motion to incorporate. When the vote was taken, a standing-room-only crowd estimated at 300 erupted into celebration.
After the room finally quieted, José Sanchez, board chairperson, congratulated the new town and the people who worked to make it happen. He also noted that the decision was made after consulting with the county attorney's office.
"The decision we made here this morning was based on how we believe the law is supposed to be interpreted," he said. "That's the way this board operates -- within the requirements of the state laws, the county ordinances and those of our nation."
Under the leadership of Bill Rappaport, Chris Benjamin, Art Lloyd, Randy White and others, the nonprofit Diamond Star Water Coalition organized the incorporation petition drive in an attempt to stop the town of Payson from taking water out of Star Valley to build new subdivisions.
County Recorder Linda Haught-Ortega told the supervisors that 843 (out of 977) signatures were "found to be qualified." Since that total was more than two-thirds of the 1,227 registered voters in Diamond Star, it was not necessary to put the question on the ballot.
The supervisors then listened to brief introductions from each of the candidates before selecting the first Diamond Star town council. The new council will be comprised of William Heath, Chuck Heron, Mary Ann Kotelnicki, Art Lloyd, Ronnie McDaniel, Ted Pettet, and Randy White.
Pettet, a longtime resident, pointed out that he had served as the first mayor of Payson three decades earlier.
"It's been a great morning and it brings back great memories," Pettet said. "It really shows what people can do if they really get behind a cause and make it happen."
McDaniel, a retired judge whose support many considered critical, set the tone for the new council.
"My belief is that government should be run by the people -- and that's the people of Diamond Star," he said.
Heron, who has jousted with the town of Payson over water before, put it another way.
"We usually use the initials ‘PC' to stand for ‘politically correct,'" he said. "I would like everybody in this room to understand what that's going to mean in the new town of Diamond Star is ‘people count.'"
Other candidates for the council included Matt Benjamin, Steve Bingham, George Binney, William Kollenborn, David Massey, Delbert Newland and Richard Pinkerton.
Immediately following the supervisor's meeting, the new council was sworn in at the county courthouse by Judge Peter Cahill. The first-ever Diamond Star town council meeting was held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Phil White Ford.
After the vote, Rappaport was ebullient.
"I am elated," he said. "We have made history. It just goes to show that the will of the people prevails."
Chris Benjamin, a member of the coalition board, had a similar reaction.
"It's just amazing that right prevailed," he said. "I am shocked, but overwhelmed with joy. What a fight."
Shirley Colin, a possible Payson town council candidate who attended the meeting, asked to address the supervisors prior to the vote.
"I love these people, and I just want my feelings known," she said. "I would not want them stealing my water and I don't want theirs.
"I am proud to see all of these people here today, because this is what Sam Adams called ‘the animating contest of freedom,'" Colin said.
The Payson town council has 30 days to challenge the incorporation in court, but apparently has not decided whether to do so. In fact, Payson Town Manager Fred Carpenter said he had received no instructions from the Payson council.
After the meeting, Bob Edwards, leader of the Committee for Community-Based Growth and potential candidate for mayor of Payson, encouraged the Payson town council to view the new town in a positive light.
"If the town of Payson is smart they will work with Diamond Star instead of fighting them," he said. "I think Payson ought to cheer this and see them as partners in an area effort. The water issue needs to be an area issue, and not an individual town issue."
Diamond Star Fire Chief Gary Hatch, who also addressed the supervisors, said the citizens of the new town are merely exercising their rights as Americans.
"We hope that Payson realizes we want to be self governing just as they wanted to be self governing in the '70s," he said, "-- and we have the right."
McDaniel appointed first mayor
Ronnie O. McDaniel was elected the interim mayor of Diamond Star at the first meeting of the newly appointed town council Thursday evening.
Assisted by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, the council also appointed Randy White vice mayor and retained the legal services of Mariscal, Weeks, McIntyre and Friedlander of Phoenix.
The council will meet again at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8 at the Diamond Star fire station.
See the Tuesday Roundup for the full story on the first Diamond Star council meeting.
See related stories:
Diamond Star reaches out to make peace with Payson (Nov. 1)
County may grant Diamond Star town status Nov. 1 (Oct. 25)
Councilor explains switch in opinion (Oct. 21)
Town Council cancels water referendum (Oct. 18)
County gets Diamond Star petitions (Oct. 18)
Hydrology report disputes town's claims (Oct. 14)
Legislators decline to join local water fight (Oct. 7)
McDaniel to serve on Diamond Star council (Sept. 27)
Pipe on site, ready to go (Sept. 23)
Developer creates $100,000 fund to assist Star Valley well conversions (Sept. 16)
Council's executive session includes Haught-Randall deal (Sept. 13)
'Closed council' prompts referendum (Sept. 2)
Diamond Star water polarizes Rim Country (Aug. 30)
Diamond Star water to cost town $750K (Aug. 26)
Citizens groups to protest at town council meeting (Aug. 23)
Diamond Star rallies behind coalition
Diamond Star says, 'no deal, they still want our water'
Town officials, Diamond Star representatives agree to talk
Developer says taking water 'not a moral issue'
Neighbors question proposed subdivision