Rim Country Sees Year Of Growth, Service And Honors


Welcome to the Payson Roundup's annual Progress Edition. Every year at this time, we offer a venue for the Rim Country to take the stage and blow its own horn. We shine a spotlight on local people, businesses, education, government and neighbors to illuminate the triumphs, achievements and advances of the past year.

The Rim Country saw a bumper crop of new businesses take root in 2005. Many existing companies branched out with new buildings and expanded inventories. A number of businesses welcomed new owners as well.


Everything old is new again -- September 2005 the Northern Gila County Fair was brought back to life after a two-year hiatus. After longtime coordinators Walt and Wilene Smith retired, the future of the fair was in doubt. That is until Wendell Stevens, agriculture teacher and FFA supervisor at Payson High School, and his committee took on the challenge and brought the popular, family event back to the Rim Country.

Several Payson businesses were recognized by the state's Main Street Awards with nominations: National Bank of Arizona, new building project; Ox Bow Inn, best historic preservation project; Wants and Wishes Gifts and Antiques (now closed), best medium scale renovation project; Main Street Walking Tour, best public/private partnership; and Payson Stampede Mountain Bike Challenge and Street Festival, best special event.

People who made a difference

The men, women and children of the Rim Country offered many stellar examples of good citizenship. Young and old alike demonstrated their consideration and care for neighbors, visitors and those far away. These are a few examples of the people who made us proud in 2005.

  • Rosalind Schuerer of Payson was awarded a certificate by President George W. Bush for the many hours of volunteer service in the community. She stays very active, volunteering five days a week for different organizations.
  • Lud Kaftan and Butch Klein started the Payson Supply Line in January 2005. Both men are veterans and know what packages from home can mean to the military. Residents of the Rim Country reached out with donations of items to comfort the men and women serving in Iraq.
  • Payson High School senior Stephanie Hilliard was named a National Merit Scholarship Program finalist in January and went on to enroll at Stanford.
  • The Tonto Apache Tribe donated $23,000 to Northern Gila County Special Olympics in July, easing the nonprofit's burden of coming up with money for travel expenses to attend competitions around the state.
  • Anna Van Zile, a teacher at Payson High School, was named Gila County Teacher of the Year and the 2005 Arizona Rural School Association's Teacher of the Year.
  • Dennis Pirch, longtime Payson High School teacher and founder of the school's wrestling program was inducted into the Arizona State Chapter Hall of Fame for Lifetime Service to Wrestling in November.
  • Golfing buddies and a passing friend saved the life of Frank Szakal when he suffered a heart attack on the Payson Golf Course in October. He just recently returned to making the rounds on the links.
  • Payson High School graduate, Bob Hernbrode, was named to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Hernbrode came to the Rim Country when he was in the fourth grade and graduated in 1962.

More milestones

  • The Payson Humane Society secured land for a new shelter, adjacent to its existing facility on McLane Road.
  • In July, the Mogollon Health Alliance hosted the 32nd Annual Arizona Rural Health Conference in Payson, with between 150 and 200 visitors coming to the area to take part.
  • The Tonto Apache Tribe installed an appellate court Jan. 21. The court includes three noted jurists: Thomas Zlaket, retired chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; Kevin Gover, a former assistant secretary for the Department of the Interior and professor of law at Arizona University of Honor, and Jesse Filkins, former Maricopa Superior judge and former judge for the Ak-Chin and Fort McDowell Indian communities.
  • On Nov. 1, 2005 the Gila County Board of Supervisors officially declared Diamond Star (now Star Valley) an incorporated community and appointed William Heath, Chuck Heron, Mary Ann Kotelnicki, Art Lloyd, Ronnie McDaniel, Ted Pettet and Randy White as its first council.

Preserving our history

  • The replica of the Zane Grey Cabin was dedicated Oct. 15, 2005. Constructed in Payson's Green Valley Park, the cabin opening attracted several hundred participants.
  • September 2005 saw the return of the Northern Gila County Fair to the Rim Country. The fair, which had been held in Pine for 50 years, was discontinued for two years when longtime coordinators Walt and Wilene Smith retired.
  • Jinx Pyle and Jayne Peace Pyle were among 10 Arizonans named as Culturekeepers for their contributions to the preservation of the state's culture, history and tradition. The Gila County natives, both descendants of area pioneer families, are the official town historians, authors, publishers and now operators of the Git A Rope! Art and Antique Corral in the Western Village.
  • The Strawberry Schoolhouse and the Pine Community Center were added to the National Register of Historic Places.


It is human nature to have a certain amount of nostalgia for our past, and a little fear about what lies ahead. Many wish that we could hold on to "the good old days." But change is inevitable, and growing pains don't last forever.

In these pages we offer some examples of the good that can come when we face the future with hope and determination, and work together as a community to embrace progress.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.