Star Valley: One Year Later

Town celebrates first anniversary

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One year ago, Star Valley was on the eve of becoming an Arizona municipality after several residents collected signatures indicating their desire to become a town.

Tonight, at 6 p.m. at Star Valley Town Hall, a celebration will be held for the town turning a year old. The actual anniversary date is Nov. 1.

Ronnie McDaniel, the first mayor of Star Valley, said the first year went by extremely fast.

He said things are running smoothly with the current council in place.

"I think they are representing the people of Star Valley real well," he said. "I think that is what it is all about. It's a way of life people are used to living."

Current Vice Mayor Randy White, an original council member, said there are still a few things the town needs to do, including building a real town hall. Currently, the town hall operates out of the Star Valley Baptist Church.

"It has been a good experience to learn how towns develop," White said. "We have very good people to learn and work with."

Councilor Mary Ann Kotelnicki, who also was appointed to the town's first council by the Gila County Board of Supervisors, said the birth of the town was the result of the efforts of the many people who went door-to-door to gather signatures.

In a town of about 2,000 people, volunteers collected more than 900 signatures from registered voters, and Diane McDaniel, the town clerk at the time and now the interim town manager, verified the signatures from registered voters before sending them in to the county to be verified.

A year later, McDaniel said there is still so much to do, and she is excited about the new town manager -- Vito Tedeschi -- who will begin work sometime in November.

Star Valley residents initially thought they were the first to form a town with a petition rather than taking it to a vote, but Star Valley was actually the second Arizona town to do so. Payson was the first.

The Gila County Board of Supervisors appointed the first seven Star Valley council members. Five of them were elected earlier this year.

Diamond Star Fire Chief Gary Hatch, who played a big role in the incorporation of Star Valley, said there was a lot of teaching and learning in the first year.

"The town is doing fantastic for one year," Hatch said. "We felt we had no choice, and I think this is the best thing that has happened to this town."

He said it took about eight to 10 months in the drive to incorporate the town of just over 2,000 people. Hatch said collecting signatures and getting legal opinions from the state and county were the most difficult things because the town had to make sure all the proper steps were being followed.

The biggest change is the community now has a voice inside the town with seven elected council members.

Sarah Luckie, the current town clerk and lifelong resident of Star Valley, said she never envisioned the town incorporating while she was growing up.

Ted Pettet, an original council member and also the first mayor of Payson many years ago, said, "We needed to (incorporate).

"When you are incorporated, you have local control. You control your own destiny with the zoning and planning."

Art Lloyd, a current and original council member, said a lot of things have happened in the past year.

"We always figured that when anyone threatens your well-being, people will unite," he said. "We all joined together." The amazing thing, he added, were the twists and turns in the process. "We had to jump through a bunch of hoops. It was an uphill battle, but we are happy with how it turned out."

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