The more things change — the more they stay the same. The Payson Town Council swore in its newest member on Tuesday — former town manager Fred Carpenter, who promised “no radical changes.”
On the other hand, newly re-sworn Payson Mayor Kenny Evans offered a telling tale that revealed how being mayor is a lot like getting kicked in the shins by a calf. The evening also marked the start of new terms for re-elected incumbents Councilor Su Connell and Councilor Ed Blair.
All promised to continue working to bring a four-year college campus to town, mend the economy and balance the budget.
“I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me,” said Carpenter. “It is certainly gratifying that there were enough, although just barely, who believed I can contribute to the future of our community.”
Carpenter said his major priorities remain landing an ASU campus, building a resort conference center and expanding the list of tourist-luring events and festivals. He also vowed to use his decades of experience in running town governments to smooth out the challenges facing businesses and developers.
“I want to set your minds at ease. I did not run for council with a desire to push for wholesale changes in Payson’s local government. We are doing quite well for ourselves in most areas — we do the basics well. Is there room for improvement? Yes, but there is no need for radical change,” he said.
Connell said her top priorities remain boosting the economy by attracting new businesses, locking in a four-year college campus and working with the Payson Youth Council to get young people involved in town affairs.
“I want to ensure police are on the streets, firefighters in the trucks and water running to our homes — with streets and sewers well maintained,” she said.
Blair also vowed to continue, quoting Winston Churchill for inspiration. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it’s the courage to continue that counts.”
Evans said he hopes in the next two years to get the word out about Payson to boost the region’s tourist economy — and lure more stable businesses.
He said Payson had a booth at the recent Country Thunder country-western music festival that drew 250,000 people to Queen Creek.
“The most-asked question at our booth was ‘so where is Payson?’ And the second most-asked question, after they looked at the photos, was ‘do you really have pine trees there?’
“When you talk to people in the Valley about Rim Country, you realize they have no clue what you’re talking about. But perhaps that’s because almost a third of the people in the Valley have been there less than five years.”
Evans reflected on the previous election in which he was portrayed as the water-carrier for special interests, especially as he asserted control over the town agenda with his workaholic 60-hour weeks, political contacts and big initiatives — like pushing through the Blue Ridge pipeline, repealing the town’s growth control ordinance and bringing ASU to town.
Evans reflected that ambiguity with a long story about painful life lessons learned 40 years ago during a frigid cattle roundup in the White Mountains.
When one of the cows refused to leave the mountainside, despite the freezing wind and swirling snow, Evans headed up the canyon to find the calf that must surely be at the root of the cow’s stubborn refusal to leave.
He found the calf, holed up against the wind —refusing to move.
“He was not going to budge,” recalls Evans. “In desperation, I took a rope and got behind him and hit him really hard. And guess what: He kicked back and broke a bone in my shin.”
So Evans limped back out into the storm found his friend and recommended they leave the calf behind.
“Mitch said ‘you can’t leave him here — he’ll die.’”
“I said ‘he kicked me!’”
So Mitch rode back down the canyon to the mother cow and then led her back up the canyon, to her calf. Now she moved willingly. And as soon as the calf heard his mother, he left his safe spot and ran out into the storm.
The lesson? “It’s a matter of trust,” concluded Evans. “We have two tasks (on the council). First, we must understand the data and identify the potential storms out there. Second, we have to develop enough trust that they’ll be willing to follow us — even if it means going out into the storm.”