In a move that surprised many Star Valley and Payson residents, including his own wife, Chuck Heron announced in an e-mail to fellow council members and town staff that he was resigning as Star Valley’s mayor for health and family reasons.
Heron said he was resigning partly for health reasons, but he is not currently ill or facing any medical emergencies.
“I have been thinking about resigning since Tim Bradley died,” Heron said of his close friend. “He only lived 17 days after they diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer.”
The reality that illness can strike quickly and without warning, served as a wake-up call for the 72-year-old, who often found himself working behind a desk 10 hours a day and not out with his family.
“I got to looking and I got 17 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren that I haven’t spent time with,” he said. “I could have waited, but I wanted to step back and smell the roses, and someone younger can do it.”
Heron has survived multiple health scares including bladder cancer, spinal cord surgery and living with diabetes, which he says are now under control. Heron told his wife Marilyn, a physician assistant, he was resigning Friday morning.
“I sat her down and told her I had made an executive decision,” he joked.
Since taking over as the town’s first elected mayor in May 2006, Heron said he worked tirelessly for the town, researching proposals and ordinances, handling calls and studying how other towns operated.
“I don’t do anything half way,” he said, “And I don’t want the town to have to plow new ground if someone else has done it.”
Heron moved to the Rim Country with Marilyn in the early 1990s after she got a job and quickly became involved in the rural community.
“We were both heavily involved in the Payson ProRodeo Committee,” he said. For several years Heron served as chairman of security for both the spring and fall rodeos.
After working the rodeo, Heron moved onto the Gila County Sheriff’s Office’s rescue squad, or Payson Posse.
The group searched for overdue hikers or injured people in the county on horseback, similar to the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue. When the group stopped using horses, Heron dropped out of the group and by that time in the late 1990s, a water coalition was being formed by Diamond Point Shadows subdivision residents.
Heron said developers wanted to drill wells upstream of the community and residents worried it would deplete their wells. The group’s commissioner Bill Phillips asked Heron to take the group over. The group successfully stopped two attempts to drill under the Rim, one of his proudest accomplishments.
“We stopped the whole exploration of wells along Diamond Rim,” he said. “I felt that was an achievement.”
When developers decided to drill the Tower Well, “it served as a rally cry for incorporation,” Heron said.
When residents learned of the well, they banned together and had the town incorporated under the name Diamond Star. The Gila County Board of Supervisors granted that incorporation and selected seven people to serve on the council until a general election was held. The appointed council selected Ron McDaniel the first mayor of Diamond Star, not Star Valley, which the Roundup inaccurately stated in Friday’s article on Heron’s resignation.
In May 2006, the town changed its name to Star Valley and Heron was selected mayor, the first officially elected mayor of the town.
Heron said he decided to become mayor because he knew he had the experience after 40 years of management, most of which was with Motorola.
“We had started something and I wanted to keep it going,” he said.
After serving almost three years as mayor, Heron said he is proud of his time on the council.
“There were some major squabbles, but I felt good about it,” he said.
“The most stressful part of the job was not doing something to enhance someone’s agenda.”
Although the town was incorporated for water issues, the council decided several months ago to forego a lawsuit against Brooke Utilities, giving up its fight to acquire a water company. The council vetoed lawsuit plans, after learning the system was worth more than $1 million.
“I wasn’t going to encumber the town with a huge debt,” he said of his decision to end the lawsuit.
With Brooke safely in control of the water system that services about 300 Star Valley residents, Heron said Brooke Utilities President Bob Hardcastle has offered to expand the water system as the town expands and to extend water lines for fire hydrants.
“I think he’ll work with us, but we’ll have to put some money towards it.”
Heron said Hardcastle has a better chance of controlling usage of the Tower Well in the future than the town.
When asked where he sees Star Valley heading, Heron said the town needs to develop a sustainable economy, protect the rural lifestyle and the environment.
With Heron’s resignation, Vice Mayor Bill Rappaport will likely be appointed acting mayor until the general election in 2010. At that time, residents will vote on the next mayor.
Heron said he will stay active with the council’s doings and devote some of his time to forest health issues for Supervisor Tommie Martin.
“I wouldn’t have done anything different,” he said of his time in office. “I let my record stand.”