When Bob Edwards, a former Michigan state legislator, retired to Payson three years ago, running for mayor was the last thing he wanted to do.
"I wanted to stay out of politics, frankly, and I did a pretty good job for awhile," he said. "Then I got involved with the Committee for Community-Based Growth and began to see some things downtown that I didn't like -- some things didn't pass the smell test."
The No. 1 problem in Payson is what Edwards calls "the disrespect and disdain that the government has for the citizens. I think right along with that is the fact that we're running this town wrong," he said.
"The town should be run so the people create the policy, the town council formulates the policy, and the staff carries it out. Instead, the staff is running the council.
"There's a small group of people that seems to be running the town, and they're not running it in the best interests of the citizens. I think the citizens literally need to take their town back."
Edwards also believes the town needs to get a handle on its water situation.
"We are at or exceeding safe yield -- without the apartments on Tyler Parkway and downtown on line, and without the 1,000 lots the town is already committed to provide water for," he said. "The last four years prior to 2005 the well levels went down; last year, in a record recharge year, they went up a little bit -- but some of the wells still went down and that's kind of scary."
"We have to begin to understand that we have a water problem and act as though we do," he said. "For us right now to be increasing density is ludicrous; it doesn't make any sense at all."
How would Edwards deal with the water issue?
"First of all, we're going to put together a task force of volunteers who will go down to the secret archives and get out all the data that is there and try to determine where we're really at," he said. "If we need to, we'll get additional data."
"Then we need to ask the people of this town, ‘What kind of town do you want?' so we can figure out our needs for the future.
"Then we need to be aggressive about getting water, and there's a number of sources we can tap:
- We need to do everything we can with conservation.
- We need to build a better relationship with the Forest Service -- work with them instead of battling them.
- We need to work with the total area -- Star Valley, the Indians and everybody else.
- We need to figure out if Blue Ridge is real or not, and if it is real, we need to have a very definite game plan to get it here. We need to fast track that.
And the town should abandon its plans to build new subdivisions using water piped from Star Valley.
"If I need a bicycle and I'm the biggest kid on the block, I don't get it by going down the street and kicking the tar out of a little kid," he said. "Yes, Arizona law may say it's legal, but it's not moral."
What's more, Edwards believes the town is under no obligation to accept water from Star Valley.
"The idea that we have to accept Star Valley's water because of this bring-your-own-bottle ordinance is nonsense," he said. "If you take the time to read that ordinance, it doesn't say that at all; we don't have to buy water from anybody who knocks at our door."
In fact, Edwards cannot understand why the council is giving G. Michael Horton, the developer who is building the Star Valley pipeline, so much power.
"For some reason this town has decided to turn the key over to one developer," he said. "If I were the other developers, I would be screaming about that.
"It is simply not the way to do it, particularly a developer who threatens everybody. What is Horton's hold? I have no clue, but to do business with somebody who threatens you doesn't make sense."
Edwards said, "We, the people" is more than a slogan.
"It's what we're about," he said. "This campaign is not about me; I just happen to be a person on the ticket. This is about the people.
"We'll take our goals and priorities to a town meeting and ask the people, ‘Are these what you truly want?' We have to institutionalize the fact that the citizens run this town; their concerns and needs must be the things that drive this town."