Three months after taking the helm of Star Valley’s Water and Sewer Commission, Vern Leis was appointed a council member at Tuesday night’s meeting in a 4-2 vote.
Leis takes over the vacated seat of Del Newland, who was appointed vice mayor several weeks ago after then-vice mayor Bill Rappaport took over as mayor following Chuck Heron’s departure from council.
Leis will serve out the remaining term, ending in March 2010, when a general election is held. At that time, Leis could choose to run and, if elected, fill the seat for another two years.
Leis said he brings 25 years of experience as a national director with Foamex/General Felt Industries, where he opened and closed several plants and handled numerous negotiations, none of which he lost, he proudly said.
“I was not sure I wanted to get involved (with council),” Leis said. “But after three months on the Water and Sewer Commission, I decided maybe my talents would be available.”
Leis also serves as co-chair of the Rim Country Classic Auto Club, which puts on the car show every year, and is on the board of directors for the Tonto Rim Sports Club.
Leis said the town is currently undergoing many changes, including the shake-up of the council, and questions of providing water and sewer services.
“I think the council is currently going through changes, and I have a lot of business talent that I think would benefit,” he said. “If we do not address those items and make sure sound decisions are made, we are all in trouble.”
Councilor Gary Coon asked Leis if he could split his time adequately as chairperson of the water and sewer commission and council.
Leis said he could, and would like to stay on as chairperson of the commission.
Councilor Nathalie Stroup asked Leis if he would be interested in running when the seat becomes available in 2010.
Leis responded that it was like having a piece of apple pie. “I have not tasted the pie, so I don’t know if I want seconds yet.”
Besides Leis, two other Star Valley residents put in requests for the vacated seat — vice-chairperson of the Star Valley floodwater task force, Joanne Conlin, and former chairperson of the water task force, Chris Benjamin. Both received only one vote from the council.
Benjamin, a longtime resident of the area, played an intricate role in the formation of the town. He helped form the Diamond Star Water Coalition, selected LFR Inc. to conduct a hydrology study for the town, and set up and operated the well monitoring program.
“Water is still the single most important issue this town faces,” Benjamin said.
Conlin, who was not able to attend the meeting because her daughter had twins last week, spoke to the council via telephone.
Conlin said she wanted to maintain the quality of the town and keep it the same.
“I really want to be a part of the town so it can grow, but not haphazardly,” she said. “We should protect our water and look at a sewage system.”
After the applicants spoke, each councilor wrote his or her choice down on a slip of paper, which Town Clerk Sarah Luckie read into the record. Councilors Newland, Rappaport, Stroup and Barbara Hartwell voted in favor of Leis.