Tea Party activist Shirley Dye will make history when she joins the Northern Gila County Sanitary District board.
Not only will she be the first woman to serve on the five-member board, she’ll be the first person elected and not appointed to their seat since 1995. She’ll also be the only member concurrently serving on the Payson school board.
Sanitary board incumbents LaRon Garrett, Guy Pfister and Patrick Underwood, who all ran for “re-election” Tuesday, were seated by appointment.
The men served out the terms of duly elected board members who could no longer fulfill their duties or moved away.
Both Garrett and Underwood probably got enough votes Tuesday to retain their seats while Pfister most likely did not. As of Thursday, Pfister had received the fewest votes out of the six candidates seeking three spots on the board.
However, some 3,400 provisional and early ballots remained uncounted on Thursday countywide. County elections officials said they don’t yet know how many of the uncounted votes lie in the Payson-based Northern Gila County Sanitary District boundaries.
Dye said she was shocked to receive 2,362 votes as of Thursday, the most of any candidate.
Dye said it was especially surprising because she had run as a team with Gary Bedsworth and Greg Friestad in an effort to secure a voting majority on the board.
The group campaigned for change since the current board had refused to lower capacity impact fees even after collecting a “massive reserve” that totaled some $14 million.
Dye, Bedsworth and Friestad made a number of presentations together as a team and even pooled their resources for campaign signs and advertising.
Bedsworth compiled hours of research, putting together an intricate slide show and leading the charge in questioning the board’s practices.
Bedsworth nearly beat out Garrett for the final seat on the board, but had come up 93 votes short as of Thursday. That’s a narrow enough margin that provisional and early ballots could tip the race.
Strong support from the Payson Tea Party likely gave Dye a critical boost, since she’s secretary of the group.
Those supporters also likely secured her a spot on the Payson Unified School District Board. Dye received nearly the same number of votes for the school board as she did for the sanitary board.
Flabbergasted that she had won at all, Dye said she was rearranging her schedule to make time for both boards. She’ll be giving up her spot as Tea Party secretary to attend school board and sanitary meetings even though she won’t take her spot on either board until January.
Dye said she could barely sleep a wink Tuesday night after the election.
“Last night, I was thinking, ‘Two boards! How did this happen?’” she said.
This is the first time Dye has ever sought office and running for sanitary and school board were not her first choices.
Dye said she originally planned to run against Ronnie McDaniel for county supervisor, but a number of people asked her not to.
Then several businessmen in the community asked her to run for the sanitary board because they were frustrated that the board had not considered lowering fees, which they said were driving growth away.
With Friestad and Bedsworth on board to run, Dye threw in her hat to “shake things up.”
Dye said she respects Joel Goode, the district’s general manager, and Garrett, who she worked with on the town’s traffic advisory board. However, she questioned some of the district’s practices. She wonders why the district charges so much for waste processing and “if they can really justify that it costs that much money to process the sewage and maintain the system.”
She hopes to get answers to those questions once on the board and to “ask questions maybe the guys haven’t asked.”
She said, “The whole reason we were approached to run and get on the board was to bring in a different point of view,” she said. “How come no one knows what is going on (at the sanitary district) but five people and the manager?”
Goode said he was happy to serve with anyone elected to the board, but did not like that a select group of business people had wanted to control the board.
Goode said he looks forward to working with Dye and even believes a number of the district’s values line up with those of the Tea Party. Those include charging people fairly and equitably.
Underwood said he is happy to continue work on the board and “doing what is right for the customers. I appreciate all the people that voted for me,” he said.
Underwood added he was sad to see Pfister had apparently not gotten enough votes.
“I am glad I am still on there so I can keep helping the district,” Garrett said.