Payson's Image Vs. Payson's Reality

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Among the 18 task forces advising the mayor, two of them were created specifically to focus on the image of Payson.

The Image Task Force was asked to concentrate on Payson's efforts to promote itself around the state in an attempt to increase tourism.

The Design Review Task Force is putting together a plan for the visual appeal of Payson, once those tourists arrive.

Quite clearly, the image of Payson is a priority of our current administration.

During his January "State of the Town" address, the mayor said it himself.

"We need to improve our image," he said.

Since he spoke those words a little more than a month ago, Payson's image -- as represented by the state and national media -- is now in need of greater improvement.

Recent media coverage included stories on the town council's efforts to enact an immigration ordinance that would require business owners to sign an affidavit swearing that every employee is working in the United States legally, and features on Channel 12 (NBC) and in The Arizona Republic, following the conviction of two local residents for adultery. In the Channel 12 piece, one Payson resident said the two got off easy. In the Biblical days, they would have been stoned to death, he said.

In both of these instances, Payson was portrayed in an extremely unflattering light.

The issue here is not whether the adulterous couple should have been prosecuted or whether the immigration statute is good law.

The issue is that Payson is letting others tell our story.

Before we worry about how the town looks -- visually -- we should ask ourselves about the other levels of how people see us. What are their perceptions of our attitudes and the culture of our town? And what do we want their perceptions to be?

If we want the image of our town to bring people here, we need to define ourselves -- not let ourselves be defined.

Payson is a vocal town, a passionate town. If there is an issue, the people of this community are not afraid to address it. The people of Payson say what is on their minds, no matter what the outside world will think of it. And that's a good thing.

Sometimes those sound bites make for good television in the Valley.

But there's another piece of Payson that doesn't make the statewide news.

Payson is a caring place. Look back at the reaction to those in need during the Dude Fire, walk into any fund-raiser on any weekend or join the rally in support of the town's sports teams.

The media can't tell these stories if they're only interested in flashy stand-ups and 30-second clips.

We are a small, central Arizona town, deeply rooted in our pioneer past, seeking to keep pace with modern technology and a growing population. We are a friendly, patriotic town. We pride ourselves on our volunteerism and ability to come together in times of crisis. These are the things that define us.

Who we are and what our community represents does not need a makeover.

But Payson should be more proactive in working with the media to tell its own story. How do we want Payson to be perceived?

Payson has many challenges but it also has a solid foundation upon which to build, develop and improve. We wish the mayor and his Task Force well as they work to make our community the best that it can be, not only as a "transit stop" but as a "final destination."

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