Former Town Manager Fred Carpenter edged out Vice Mayor Mike Vogel in Tuesday’s election, according to final tallies released on Thursday.
Meanwhile, incumbent Su Connell proved the top councilor vote-getter, followed by incumbent Ed Blair.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans ran unopposed and received 75 percent of the votes cast. However, 1,072 voters left their ballots blank and another 224 wrote in someone else.
Political observers offered varying ing theories on Vogel’s defeat, ranging from his decision not to spend much time going door-to-door to the focused opposition of the faction of voters that formerly supported former Payson mayor, Bob Edwards.
Connell racked up the most votes among the council candidates — 3,279, or 64 percent.
Blair came in second, with 3,044, or 59 percent.
Carpenter came in just 66 votes behind Blair, with 2,988, or 58 percent.
Vogel got 2,965 votes, or 58 percent, and trailed Carpenter by just 23 votes.
Vogel accepted the loss philosophically. “It’s been a great run.”
He attributed his loss largely to his decision to focus on continuing his 40- to 60-hour work weeks centered on recruiting new businesses and on devoting a third of his ad budget to ads supporting Home Rule.
“I made a decision,” he said. “I can campaign for Home Rule and I can continue trying to get jobs in this town, or I can go door-to-door.”
By contrast, Blair estimated that he rang 3,000 doorbells in the past four months, stumping for re-election.
Carpenter estimated that he visited 1,000 homes. On the other hand, Connell got the most votes, without ever going door-to-door.
All the candidates hailed the passage of Home Rule and said they found voters supportive and understanding.
The campaign turned largely on contacts, shoe leather and reputation, since not a single issue emerged to clearly distinguish the four council candidates.
Connell said, “I was very pleased with the retention of Kenny Evans. He is a born leader, innovator and a man of vision. I was very sorry for Mike Vogel’s defeat. Mike has worked relentlessly for the town of Payson. Ed Blair has been at my right hand for many months. We have many thoughts in common and we have great respect for each other when we disagree.”
She also praised Carpenter’s “community spirit.”
The newest council member served as town manager for five years, before the council majority led by then-mayor Edwards and including all three incumbents offered him an early buyout of his contract to induce him to retire six months early.
The state attorney general later concluded the council had violated the state’s open meeting law during a private, luncheon meeting at which the reshuffle at town hall was initiated.
However, Carpenter ran a positive, low-key campaign in which he avoided any criticism of the council. In one interview, the only council decision with which he took issue was a decision to exempt Town Manager Debra Galbraith from a staff furlough that amounted to a 12.5 percent pay cut. The council decided to not put Galbraith on furlough so she would fill in for department heads taking the two-day-a-month unpaid leave.
Carpenter said “I will do everything in my power to live up to your expectations. Now that the election’s over, it’s time to get to work for Payson.”
Carpenter said he would take his time developing his priorities. “I think they need seasoned people that have a lot of background. I’m not going to be a politician, I’m going to be a citizen. When issues come up, I’m going to be prepared to deal with them from a perspective of long experience.”
He said he went door-to-door mostly to build up name recognition in the community. “People would say, ‘Oh, I remember you now. You used to be something,’” he laughed.
Councilor Blair credited his win mostly to his relentless door-to-door campaigning.
“If I had not gone door-to-door, I would not have won,” he said, noting that he came in less than 100 votes ahead of Vogel.
He said he thought people supported him because he has worked so diligently to answer voters’ questions and represent their concerns on the council.
“I think basically they responded to the fact that I asked the questions they wanted to ask,” said Blair.
The former minister was first elected in 2006 on a ticket with Edwards, which turned on growth controls and water shortages. Edwards put together another slate of candidates in 2006, but was defeated by Evans after gleaning about 48 percent of the vote.
This time, no one ran against Evans — although Edwards repeatedly appealed to someone to challenge his rival. Edwards endorsed Blair, Connell and Carpenter and pointedly urged people not to vote for Vogel or Evans. The results suggested that appeal might have resonated with some voters.
Some 1,200 voters refused to vote for Evans, although he was unopposed. About the same number voted against Home Rule, a proposition about which Edwards had also expressed reservations.
Moreover, many voters voted for only one or two council members, instead of checking off all three slots. As a result, the total council vote was more than 2,000 less than it could have been. A voter who cast only a single vote effectively tripled the benefit to that candidate by not adding to the tally of competing candidates.