Connell Lights Up Local Politics With Personality

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Editor's note: This is the first profile in a series of three, meant to introduce readers to the newly elected council members. In the Friday, May 19 edition of the Payson Roundup, mayor-elect Bob Edwards was profiled.

Less than a year ago, Su Connell's husband of 45 years, Jack, died of cancer.

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Su Connell

Before Jack's death, Su expressed an interest in participating in local government -- but she wanted to wait.

"‘No,'" he said. "‘Do it now or I'll come back to haunt you,'" Councilor-elect Connell said. "And I thought he would."

Connell -- who collected 2,633 of the votes -- is the only woman on the newly elected council, and that's OK with her.

She worked with plenty of men during her second career in marketing, logistics and purchasing at the Procter & Gamble plant in Phoenix -- the only factory in the world that makes Metamucil.

"I get along better with men than with women," she said. "I didn't let men bully me."

After starting at the bottom and working her way up the ranks of corporate America, Connell and Jack, a systems engineer, retired to Payson in 2001.

Shortly thereafter, Jack and Su received troubling news: He had throat and neck cancer.

Then it spread to his lungs.

"From 2001 to June 2005, part of my job was caregiving," Connell said. "When you have a loved one, and you work on common goals, and you retire, and you find the right area and the right house, and you're faced with terminal cancer, you go through strange emotions like, ‘Why me?'"

From the sorrow of watching her mate die from a terminal illness and experiencing the relief borne of his death and an end to his pain, emerged a new life for Connell.

"It gave me a lot of patience and empathy for things I can't control," Connell said. "Everything I've selected to do is about my passion instead of putting a roof over my head."

As the director of the Rim Country Literacy Program, Connell, from the first day she stepped foot in Payson, has immersed herself in volunteer activities, including the Time Out Shelter and Rotary Club of Payson.

And she's an avid Red Hatter -- a group of women who don scarlet and purple clothing and celebrate life after 50.

"There are no dues, no minutes, no rules. You just go out and have fun and be crazy," Connell said. "Age is just a matter of calendar."

At 65, Connell hasn't let retirement hamper her energy.

She zips around town in her bluish-green PT Cruiser with a license plate that reads, POOTRVL or "Pooh Travel" -- she adores Winnie the Pooh.

"I have him all over my house and in my car," she said. "He's always got a smile on his face. He is just my hero."

Connell's interest in civic service stems from a political background. As a child, she watched her father, Arthur, a Wisconsin state senator, and great uncle, U.S. Sen. Irving Lenroot, roll up their sleeves and kiss babies.

A relative of hers oversaw the first incarnation of Children's Bureau, now a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, created by President William Howard Taft.

Connell looks forward to carrying on her family's civic-minded tradition when she's sworn in June 8.

Mending community strife, streamlining council meetings, and reaching out to adjacent communities such as Star Valley and the Tonto Apache Tribe are just a few items on her agenda.

"We'll have to work as a council to promote understanding," Connell said.

Look for Connell's joie de vivre to add effervescence to future town council meetings.

"I have fun in almost everything I do," she said. "Or I don't do it."

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