Race Is On For Rim Country School Boards

Nine candidates jostling for three seats on the board

Payson Unified School District Office

Photo by Andy Towle. |

Payson Unified School District Office


Nine Rim Country School board candidates have collected all necessary signatures, had their nomination papers notarized and turned everything into the Gila County Superintendent’s office.


Lynette Brouwer


Shirley Dye


Carmalita Locke


Jim Muhr


Ron Silverman


Barbara Underwood


Gerald R. Rutz


Devin Wala

Let the contest begin!

The Payson school board has three seats open and nine candidates running.

Each candidate had to gather 70 signatures.

But voters won’t actually make their choice in the non-partisan school board race until November.

Incumbent and sitting president Barbara Underwood will seek her second four-year term, the only returning incumbent.

Payson school board members may only serve a total of three four-year terms.

Underwood has seen the best of times and the worst of times. Her tenure covers the end of the housing boom in Payson through the economic crash. She has had to let principals, teachers and staff go to balance the budget, but through it all she continues to move forward. As a grandparent of students, she has a vested interest in making Payson schools the best.

Two other candidates have children currently in the school district, Lynette Brouwer and Devin Wala.

Brouwer has a daughter in the high school and another daughter in elementary school. Both of Brouwer’s children face challenges with language and culture as they were adopted from outside the country.

Wala has two students, one in high school and the other in the junior high school. Both of his children participate in extracurricular activities. Wala and his wife joined with other parents in the district to create the Payson Association for Advanced Learners.

The slate of candidates includes many former Payson Unified School District teachers.

James Quinlan used to teach English. He now works full time for Gila Community College. His wife has retired, but the district hired her as a consultant in the junior high science department.

Carmelita Locke worked the majority of her teaching career in Payson. She retired two years ago, but still volunteers to help children with their education.

Ron Silverman taught social studies, government and economics at Payson High School. He has since taken a job with the White Mountain district after falling as a casualty of the reduction in force enforced this past spring. He maintained that he was laid off mostly because he maintained high standards and administrators objected to his willingness to flunk students who didn’t finish their work. Silverman is still a resident in the Payson district.

Gerald Rutz worked in the Valley for years as an educator. He has retired to Payson and hopes to give back to the community.

Shirley Dye has volunteered for hours both tutoring children at her church and with politics. She serves as the vice president of the Payson Tea Party. She has also thrown her hat into the sanitary district board election.

Jim Muhr serves at the president of the Payson Tea Party. He served his country in the Vietnam War and hopes to help his community through serving on the school board.

Meanwhile, the Pine-Strawberry school district has three seats open for its board election and four candidates. Each candidate had to collect 11 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Jessica Barnette and Margaret Parker, both former school board members will try again for a seat on the board.

Melissa McNeeley, a longtime resident of the Pine-Strawberry area, is making her first bid.

Rick Weiss is new to the district. He designs Web sites. His wife has recently joined the Pine Library Board

In the Tonto Basin school district, only one candidate completed the paperwork to qualify for the ballot. Dottie France gathered five signatures. Her husband works as a Gila County sheriff’s deputy and they have a child in the district.


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