Former Manager In Council Race

Three Payson councilors running for re-election despite a bleak budget

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Fred Carpenter

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Mike Vogel

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Ed Blair

Turns out Payson council candidates in a recession are as hard to find as a developer who wants a building permit.

On the other hand — no one can accuse the budget beset council incumbents of being quitters.

All three incumbent council members intend to run for re-election — and both Vice Mayor Mike Vogel and Ed Blair have already turned in their nominating petitions.

Incumbent Su Connell has taken out nominating petitions but not turned them back in.

Challenger Fred Carpenter has turned in his nominating petitions. The former town manager now works in Payson as a DJ for parties and special events. Carpenter was a veteran town manager before coming to Payson. He resigned nearly two years ago, but the then-town-council was later reproached by the state attorney general’s office for violating the open meeting law during a lunchtime discussion on administrative changes, including a decision to try and convince Carpenter to resign by offering him a buyout.

Former Humane Society board president John Wakelin took out nominating petitions, but subsequently decided not to run for election.

Meanwhile, incumbent Payson Mayor Kenny Evans has also decided to run for re-election, confirming longstanding rumors last week by taking out nominating petitions for a second term.

Council members serve four-year terms, but mayors serve only two years in Payson’s at-large voting system. Payson actually has a “weak mayor” system, in which the mayor commands high visibility, but actually has no greater powers than any individual council member.

The mayor used to have the responsibility for appointing volunteers to serve on town boards and commissions, but the current council shifted that responsibility to the vice mayor — a position that rotates each year.

Carpenter was out of state on vacation at press time and could not be reached for comment on why he’s running and what issues he’ll highlight.

Evans, Vogel and Connell had all said they wouldn’t run for re-election, but all said they changed their minds because of the critical state of several major projects — including the effort to convince ASU to build a campus in Payson, start of construction on the Blue Ridge pipeline and another year of serious budget challenges.

Vogel toyed with the idea of running for mayor during the period when Evans was saying publicly that he didn’t intend to run for a second term. At one point, Vogel had ruled out running for another council term.

However, the discussions about an ASU campus and construction of the Blue Ridge pipeline and the impact on the dwindling town budget of the lingering drop in construction and retail sales prompted Evans to seek a second term.

Vogel then agreed to run again for council to finish several major initiatives, including winning the college campus, finishing the pipeline, digging the town’s economy out from under the recession and building a third fire station — a project on which Vogel has taken the lead.

“Besides, I’m still having fun,” said Vogel, renowned for his blunt, no-nonsense delivery, independent voting patterns and relish for fixing problems for constituents.

A long career as a top negotiator and administrator for a firefighter’s union, he’s a vivid, outspoken deal-maker who uses a quick wit, self-mocking wisecracks and gruffly warm nature to soften his often uncompromising and critical comments.

Connell also had not planned to run for re-election, until the plans for a college campus began to take shape.

Connell has focused consistently on community service organizations and providing human services through the town. She said she wanted to make sure that the town protected community and social services for residents, despite the economic downturn.

A genial, conciliatory peacemaker on the council, Connell has spent much of her time and effort on constituent services and working closely with a variety of community groups. She rarely takes the lead in council discussions, rarely clashes with other council members publicly and works most effectively behind the scenes.

Councilor Blair, a talkative, easy-going, earnestly friendly minister, is the sole remaining council member who was closely aligned with the growth-control oriented faction, which under former Mayor Bob Edwards, dominated the council until Evans’ upset victory two years ago.

Although Blair remains close to the group of political activists Edwards assembled, he has also gotten along well with the new council majority.

Blair remains the most likely dissident on a wide range of issues, but manages to disagree in a sufficiently friendly manner that he maintains amiable personal relationships with other council members. Although he has a reputation for asking odd questions, he’s dogged, persistent and intensely focused on responding to citizen complaints and questions.

He has so far made his support for Home Rule a key element of his campaign. On the same ballot as the council election Payson voters will have a chance to keep the town’s spending ceiling at the current level.

The Home Rule ballot measure requires a fresh vote of the citizens every four years to allow a town to exceed a certain budget ceiling. If voters reject the Home Rule provisions, the town would have to virtually shut down to get under the spending limit. However, even if the voters rejected Home Rule, it would not decrease any tax rates — merely prevent the town from spending most of the money it collects.

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