Election Engages Voters In Record Numbers


The final results of the general election, announced Thursday afternoon, usher in a new town leadership -- Bob Edwards as mayor, and three new council members, Mike Vogel, Ed Blair and Su Connell.

A combination of the issues at stake and personalities on the ballot brought voters in numbers rarely seen during a nonpresidential year, local election.

The 2006 Payson Town Council election brought in 62 percent of registered voters, or nearly double the number of voters who sent in ballots three years ago.

Payson Town Clerk Silvia Smith said in 2003, the first year of the mail-in ballots, 38 percent of voters participated.

In years before that, barely 35 percent showed up at the polls.

"Anytime the votes increase, it pleases me," Smith said.

The final count put mayoral candidate Bob Edwards ahead with 3,099 votes, Barbara Brewer followed with 2,251.

Council candidate Mike Vogel garnered the most votes, 2,790, followed by Blair, 2,734, and Connell, 2,633.

Sexton came in fourth with 2,319 votes, Underwood ended with 2,190 and Rick Croy tallied 2,046.

Magistrate Dorothy Little will swear in the new council at the June 8 council meeting.

The current council will ratify the votes at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 23.

Days after the election, Vogel, Blair, Connell and Edwards are mentally preparing for their terms.

"What we'll do is set town goals from a citizens' point of view," said mayor-elect Bob Edwards.

"We will be putting together task forces and advisory committees that will work for the people."

The new group is an eclectic mix of backgrounds and political ideas. Vogel is the erstwhile firefighter from Michigan. Su Connell is a former Procter and Gamble company woman, and Ed Blair is a retired Lutheran minister from Minneapolis.

"I think it's going to be an interesting council," said Connell, the only woman on the six-member panel.

And for the three council candidates whose vote-count kept them off the dais -- Rick Croy, Barbara Underwood and Diana Sexton -- they will settle back into normalcy.

"I'm definitely going to get over this thing," said Sexton. "I'll be a better person because of it."

As the election hype cools down and the adrenaline rush ebbs, the process of absorbing the experience begins.

The personal barbs and the misinformation circulated in the community, the candidates said, represented the most painful part of campaigning.

"It's hard to deal with negative comments," Blair said. "That's going to be one of my growing edges, not to take it personally. When people say, ‘Ed this, that and the other thing,' it's hard not to take it personally."

Underwood said she faced rumors that her husband, Pat, a school teacher, was instead a licensed contractor working for a local developer.

"I was just disappointed that people were able to say things that weren't true and there's no recourse," Underwood said. "I think there were a lot of lies and deception. There was too much negativity out there and that's not the person I am."

Croy, president of Payson Regional Housing Development and an advocate of work force housing, said he learned that grassroots efforts couldn't overcome big-dollar campaigns.

"You've got to have a bank account to compete," he said. "I used my own money. I didn't do any newspaper or radio advertising and I had a full-time job."

Despite the campaign challenges, each candidate found inspiration among the door-to-door discussions with Payson's populace.

"I met some people I wouldn't have met otherwise," Underwood said.

"People are what it's about," Sexton said. "That part you can't put a price on."

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