Candidate Advocates Steady Growth

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Payson Town Council candidate Barbara Underwood moved to Payson 28 years ago, when the town had just 4,000 residents.

"My dad had restaurants in the Valley forever, and we opened Mario's up here," she said. "My dad, my husband and I were all partners."

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Barbara Underwood

Her take on growth is that Payson really isn't growing all that fast.

"I don't think Payson has had explosive growth," she said. "In comparison to other Arizona cities, I think we've had a low growth rate. I think we need to have a steady, slow growth to keep a balanced economy."

She cited the availability of medical resources as an example.

"I've seen the hospital go from seven beds to where it is today, and for seniors and (people) like my daughter delivering kids, it's all available here," she said. "So in other words, the growth we've had I feel has been positive, and there's always more services that need to be available."

Underwood understands the link between growth and water and believes it will be the No. 1 issue facing the town for years to come. She believes Star Valley water is vital to Payson.

"They are a stepping stone to having a better water supply for Payson right now until Blue Ridge can be brought in," she said.

And she doesn't believe using Star Valley water to fuel Payson's growth is a moral issue -- at least not yet.

"I believe people have property rights and the owners had the right to sell their water, and I don't believe it is a moral issue unless the pumping of that well adversely affects other people," she said. "So when that water is brought to Payson there will be a moral responsibility at that point if it affects people, and if it does, then something needs to be done."

But she doesn't believe the current town council handled the issue as well as it could have.

"There's a saying: ‘There's always something you can do better,'" she said. "I'm a communicator and I feel that communication is the No. 1 thing -- to just keep people on the same page.

"If there had been more communication and diplomacy there, I think it would've been a smoother transition. I fault Payson for not communicating well with their neighbors.

"You have to hear all sides of every story. Sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong, but you have to listen to the other side."

She also believes the residents of Diamond Star have a right to form their own town.

"Payson didn't want to annex them for whatever the various reasons, so I think that it's time," she said.

Underwood, who is on the planning and zoning commission, and her husband have developed two subdivisions off Tyler Parkway, but she denies that she would be a pro-development councilor.

"Yes, we've dabbled in development," she said. "Patrick and I have done two small developments in this town, Siena Creek and San Gianni Hills."

"It's just something we've done on the side. I think it's given me a little bit of knowledge about what it takes to get infrastructure in this town. Most, if not all, the infrastructure in this town has been put in by developers."

Underwood believes conservation must play an important role in maintaining Payson's water supply.

"Regardless of whether we're in a drought or not, water is a precious commodity and I think we always need to have conservation methods enforced," she said. "We live in a desert; you don't need to be an hour in the shower.

"We have a lot of good conservation measures in force, and even if we get Blue Ridge, I still think it's important to conserve water. I want my grandkids and great-grandkids to have water."

Underwood believes town councilors should be committed to community service, and says she has a solid background in that area.

"I have volunteered many hours of service to helping schools and charities," she said. "I've been on planning and zoning, I've been on parks and rec, and I feel if you are not of a volunteer-charity nature you shouldn't be running for council.

"One of the things I'm most proud of is I was Payson's first Character Counts coordinator. It's like the Golden Rule when my parents were growing up.

"The 6 pillars of character --trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, citizenship -- are dear to my heart, because if every person truly modeled their lives around those pillars, we wouldn't have the division in this community we have now."

This is the sixth in a series of articles about the candidates for Payson Town Council. At the conclusion of the series, the Roundup will compare the candidates' views side by side on a number of issues our readers tell us are important to them.

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