The new town of Diamond Star -- or whatever it ends up being called -- now has a face, and a reassuring one at that.
Retired Judge Ronnie McDaniel, a Diamond Point Shadows resident, has agreed to serve on the first town council, which will be appointed by Gila County. That council will then select a mayor from its midst, and many believe McDaniel will be its choice.
"I'm interested in what's taking place out here so I did volunteer that I would accept such a position if everything goes through," McDaniel said.
A lifetime Rim Country resident, McDaniel retired in November after serving 40 years as a police officer, school board member and town magistrate/justice of the peace.
"He's got such an impeccable reputation and everybody likes him," Diamond Star Water Coalition President Bill Rappaport said. "I have not met one person who has anything negative to say about him. He's just a great guy."
The coalition is conducting a petition drive to incorporate the communities of Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows in an effort to stop a developer and the town of Payson from taking water to build new subdivisions. McDaniel's wife, Diane, has been heavily involved in the incorporation movement, but McDaniel took a wait-and-see attitude.
"He was kind of sitting back to see where this was going to go, if, in fact, we had the support of the community," Rappaport said. "Once he saw that, he decided to step up to the plate."
For McDaniel, the issue is very simple.
"The people out here and in Star Valley are concerned about running out of water, and they believe they can control more of their destiny by becoming incorporated," he said. "If you have a 200-foot well and you put down a 1,000-foot well next to it, or it happens to be in the same aquifer, it's going to hurt it."
McDaniel says what Chaparral Pines did to the Calhoun Ranch area should serve as a warning. The gated community uses water from the ranch near Star Valley to water its golf course when effluent is not available.
"They were taking a lot of gallons of water out of the Calhoun Ranch spring and well for two or three years and now that's not producing," he said. "It's basically dried up and killed all the vegetation. I went out and personally looked at it and it looks like a bomb went off out there."
Told that town officials deny that the Calhoun Ranch wells are running dry, McDaniel invited them to see for themselves.
"It's there if people want to go look," he said. "I've been in that area since I was a little kid and I know how the water used to run freely through that creek. It was a pretty little marsh area all down through there."
Rappaport explained the process by which McDaniel can be appointed.
"Once the petitions are accepted by the county, we will put together a list of names -- a minimum of 15 names -- and those are submitted to Gila County with resumes," he said. "Out of that list, Gila County will pick seven people and they will be the initial council for the town.
"The seven people within themselves will pick a mayor and a vice mayor, however they set it up. Their first rule of business will be to establish the (structure) of the town and to go forward with an election."
Coalition officers and members of the executive committee have agreed not to be involved in town government.
"We don't want anybody to think we've had an agenda where we've wanted to put ourselves into a steering position, so we're all recusing ourselves from that," Rappaport said.
The coalition already has more than enough signatures to put incorporation on the ballot, but wants to get two-thirds of the voters to sign so an election won't be necessary.
"It looks like the final figure (to achieve incorporation without an election) will be 800," local attorney and coalition member Art Lloyd said. "We've already got 800, but we're going to try to get another 100 just for a buffer and turn them in.
"We're down to short strokes on that. We've got a list of the people who haven't signed and we're going out and contacting them."
While McDaniel only came on board this week, his reputation is already having the effect coalition members hoped it would.
"A lot of people were holding back from signing the petitions because they were wondering who was going to be running the show, but when he stepped forward he really coalesced everybody into a solid group," Rappaport said.
Diamond Point Shadows residents Jim and June Swann had already signed the incorporation petition, but they like the fact that McDaniel has become involved.
"I don't know him, but from what I've heard I think that's great," June said. "Who better to know what's going on and to know, hopefully, what he's doing."
"I do know him and he's got it together; he knows what the skinny is," Jim said. "I think he's a pretty staunch citizen."
McDaniel returns the respect. In fact, he promises to govern according to what the people want.
"If the town becomes incorporated, I will try to lead Diamond Star the way Diamond Star wants to be led," he said. "I think the people will speak and say what they want and don't want, and I believe in that kind of democracy."
He also believes in being a good neighbor.
"If Diamond Star is incorporated, they should be a good neighbor to Payson, and I think Payson should be a good neighbor to us and the surrounding areas also."