Payson Town Attorney Sam Streichman last week took a buyout package and retired, after 20 years service guiding the town through various legal thickets.
The council directed Town Manager Debra Galbraith to negotiate with Deputy Town Attorney Tim Wright to take over the top legal job.
Streichman reflected on decades of sorting through legal issues for the town.
“I always figured retirement was going to be when they came in and found me slumped at my desk,” said Streichman, “But I think it’s time to go.”
He said Payson has always been on the cutting edge, when it comes to sorting through complicated legal problems — often as a result of its effort to find enough water.
Among his accomplishments, Streichman cited the complicated effort to sell a right to Colorado River water as well as an agreement to clean up groundwater pollution by a dry cleaner that resulted in the establishment of a superfund site.
Such agreements ultimately provided the money that enabled to town to pursue rights to water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir, which by about 2014, will double the town’s assured water supply.
“Payson has always had bigger legal issues and a bigger agenda than you’d expect for a town our size. We’ve always been in the forefront for a lot of these things, we were the first ones in the state,” said Streichman.
“In a subdued, legal way, they’re exciting things to have accomplished.”
The town council met in executive session to figure out what to do about Streichman’s planned retirement, which enabled him to take advantage of a buyout package intended to reduce payroll costs.
Streichman has long played a quiet, low-key role with Wright more often to answer council questions in meetings.
Payson remains one of the few small towns with two, full-time town attorneys on staff. Few small towns have even a single staff attorney, much less two. Many towns contract with independent law firms for legal advice.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said the town will explore innovative ways to provide enough legal services after Streichman retires.
Evans said the town not only needs legal advice in setting town policies, but the town’s legal staff also provides prosecutors for the magistrate court — which mostly handles traffic matters, like drunk driving arrests.
Unfortunately, only three attorneys in Payson handle defense cases before the magistrate court, which means they all have conflicts of interest that would prevent them from operating as a contract prosecutor, said Evans.
Still, said Evans, “my sense is that we won’t see things done in the way they’ve been done in the past.”
Meanwhile, Streichman expressed satisfaction that the council wants Wright to step into the leading role. “That pleases me: The town will be in good hands going into the future.”