Former Mayor Bids Farewell To Payson

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Vern Stiffler served the Town of Payson as both a councilman and mayor. He was first appointed in 1982 to complete one-and-a-half years of a term in a vacated seat.

"I was out of work and wanted to stay in the Rim Country and politics seemed like something to keep me busy," Stiffler said.

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Former Payson Mayor Vern Stiffler, and his wife, Iona, moved to Mesa this month. They had been commuting between Payson and Mesa since 2000. They decided to make the move permanent to be closer to their family. "That drive was starting to be too much for us," Stiffler said.

He ran for the office in 1984, but did not win. Stiffler came back and again ran for the council in 1986, winning a four-year term.

Service on the town council whet his political appetite and he made a bid for the Arizona House of Representatives in 1992. His opponent was incumbent Polly Rosenbaum, who retained her seat.

Stiffler's next bid was for Payson mayor in 1996, he won that election and was re-elected to a second two-year term in 1998.

He sought a third term in 2000, but lost to Ray Schum.

While politics was initially just something to do and an opportunity to serve the town, in the 1990s Stiffler took up the cause of water and growth.

"We needed to slow growth until we found new water supplies," Stiffler said. "We were growing too fast."

He said he felt very strongly that to best serve the people, town government needed to provide the basics -- "Protection, fire and police protection, streets, the things people can't do on their own."

Stiffler said he wanted to create a safe environment and protect the quality of life in Payson.

"I came into office saying I would slow the growth. When I started, we had 8 percent growth. My objective was to get it down to 2 percent. That's where it was when I went out of office."

Stiffler and his wife, Iona, first came to call Payson home in 1979 when the Department of Economic Security sent him to open a DES office here. In those days, they had about 20 people a day coming into the office. In 1982, Stiffler opted for early retirement when DES wanted to transfer him.

He wasn't a stranger to the area when he moved here.

"I'd been coming to the Rim Country since 1957," he said. His earliest impression of the community, "It was a cowboy town, with really good food and pie at the Open Range Café, where Macky's is now."

Before his jump into politics, Stiffler helped found the Ponderosa Baptist Church with Bob Richardson, one of the local grocers, and Perry Epley, a retired minister.

When his political life came to a close in 2000, Stiffler and his wife started splitting their time between Mesa and Payson.

"We had family and friends there," Stiffler said. They spent about half the year in each community and sometimes commuted.

They put their Payson home on the market about six months ago and made a permanent move to Mesa this month.

"We're at a stage in life where we really couldn't take care of two places anymore," Stiffler said. "We have family there and needed to get closer."

Looking back on his years in Payson, Stiffler said, "I have a good feeling about the years we spent in Payson. We enjoyed the life we had there, but things change."

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