Star Valley swore in Ronnie McDaniel as its new mayor this week, bringing him full circle. McDaniel was appointed the community’s first mayor and on Tuesday was appointed once again to the same post.
He will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Bill Rappaport through the the fall elections of 2014.
McDaniel is a former justice of the peace and retired from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office and member of a pioneering Rim Country family. When the town of Star Valley incorporated, McDaniel was chosen as its first mayor after helping out in the incorporation process. He made an unsuccessful bid for District 3 county supervisor in 2012.
The Star Valley Town Council wrangled over the process of making the appointment. Some members chastised Town Manager Tim Grier for some of his advice regarding the vacancy and what they thought was a premature story in the Payson Roundup about the process. A couple of the members thought the council should have discussed the process and the vacancy with Grier before he talked to the press.
Grier pointed out a memorandum from him to them is a public record — unless it falls within the stringent limits of executive session material — and could not be withheld from the press.
Councilor Gary Coon debated Grier’s suggestion that the council could appoint the mayor from the community at large. Instead, he said he thinks the statute requires the council to appoint the mayor from the council, not the community.
Grier said he stood by his memo and pointed out he had sought review from two other attorneys, including Payson town attorney Tim Wright and another expert in municipal law.
Councilor Vern Leis said he also felt the council should appoint a sitting member to the job, rather than someone from the community.
“We’ve worked well together. We know where we’re going and do a good job,” he said. He went on to say he would be willing to serve as an interim mayor for the sake of continuity on the council and for the town.
Both men said they admired McDaniel and felt he would do a fine job for the town. Despite the qualms of Leis and Coon, Councilors Paty Henderson, Barbara Hartwell and George Binney all supported McDaniel’s appointment.
“It is in the best interest of the town to select an at-large candidate (for mayor). Ronnie McDaniel will be an asset to the council and the community,” Henderson said.
At the end of the unexpectedly lengthy debate, the council agreed 6-0 to appoint to fill the mayoral vacancy from either the sitting council or a member at the community at large; and then appointed McDaniel, the only nomination, with a unanimous vote.
Judge Dorothy Little read the oath of office and swore in McDaniel as mayor.
Ronnie McDaniel has lived in the Payson area since 1938 and traces his roots to several pioneer families. He has made his home in Star Valley for more than 40 years.
He spent the majority of his career as a deputy and a judge. He worked 22 years for the Gila County Sheriff’s Office and was elected as Payson Justice of the Peace in 1987, he remained in that position until he retired in 2007.
He came out of retirement in 2008 to become Chief Tribal Judge for the Tonto Apache Reservation. McDaniel recently also served as an independent hearing officer for the Town of Payson.
McDaniel also sits on the Rim Country Education Alliance (SLE) board, which gives him a leading role in the effort to build a university campus in Payson. And he served on the governing board of the Payson Unified School District for nine years including a final stint as president.
McDaniel has also volunteered hours founding Payson’s Little League baseball and Pop Warner football programs. He is a past member of the Moose Lodge and has a life membership with the Payson Elks Lodge. He is a member of the Rotary. He still donates time to help children, serving with the Pioneer Celebration Committee raising money for scholarships.