There are two candidates for Payson mayor, including incumbent Craig Swartwood who is finishing a two-year term. Swartwood, a Realtor, previously served as mayor in the 1990s and helped see Green Valley Park created.
He is challenged by Tom Morrissey who moved to Payson permanently two years ago, but has been visiting the area for 10 years. He has worked for the U.S. Marshals, Department of Economic Security, owned two small businesses and written several books.
Swartwood is proud of what he has accomplished in his two-year term, especially because he didn’t have any idea the challenges he would face when elected. And while he originally pledged to serve just one term, Swartwood said he is running again to see several projects through.
During the recent chamber luncheon, Swartwood discussed those projects in a nine-minute video message played for the crowd as he was out of town at the time (See the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqjARcImn_k).
Two years ago, Swartwood’s platform included eliminating police and dispatcher turnover. Today, the PPD is fully staffed and they are working to bring more dispatchers on. There are currently 10 dispatchers with seven open positions.
“That is a promise kept,” he said. “We have a great police department. We have a great fire department. We have made great strides to make sure they are well compensated and not overworked.”
Two years ago, Swartwood said they would work on streets.
Today, the town is back on a seven-year maintenance cycle. And this year, the council put another $50,000 toward streets from the general fund for additional repaving.
Two years ago, Swartwood talked about rebuilding the reserves.
This year, the town is on track to have more than a million in reserves and to have a contingency fund for the first time in many years. And this year, the council put $100,000 into a capital improvement fund.
And Swartwood said the council increased community involvement, hosting four town halls, two of which were on a new community center.
They are working on a “risk neutral” plan to build that community center and pool and improve Rumsey Park.
And Swartwood said he is going to propose extending an expiring tax now used to pay off the Tyler Parkway fire station to put a year-round cover on the event center. This would make the venue suitable for conventions, concerts and other events — bringing more business to the tourism-dependent economy.
On Main Street, backers successfully raised enough money to plant an apple orchard with grafts of heritage trees along the American Gulch.
And efforts to clean up the town resulted in three dump-your-junk events. Swartwood said he is working on quarterly communitywide brush clean up events.
“So we have not rested and it’s not that we have done nothing, we have actually accomplished a lot,” he said.
And one of Swartwood’s proudest accomplishments: helping launch the Adventure Where We Live campaign.
This movement he says has attracted more people to the area who want to live out adventures here, like fishing, hiking and kayaking.
“Is everything done? Absolutely not. That is why I decided to run again. I would like to see the community center through to a conclusion, hopefully one where we build it and it does not impact your tax dollars.”
Swartwood defended his decision to raise the sales tax by almost one cent, saying it needed to be done to fix the public safety retirement system.
He said what sets him apart from Tom Morrissey is his eternal optimism and track record of getting things done.
“I don’t want to make this a big city, just the best place where we can all live out our adventures.”
While Swartwood talked about parks and adventures, Morrissey has a very different set of priorities.
Morrissey said while he does not want to say anything bad about Swartwood, he believes the town can do things a whole lot better.
He detailed four of his top priorities for when he takes office.
For one, Morrissey said he would work to build a more open dialogue between town government and citizens. He does not like that speakers are only given three minutes to talk at council meetings as that is not conducive to exchanging ideas.
“And we need to exchange ideas,” he said. “I will immediately conduct a survey of business owners and community leaders and other citizens to get their views on the inequities and the solutions.”
Morrissey said he would also conduct frequent town hall meetings and assign a council member to represent a segment of the community. They would then meet with that group regularly and carry their concerns back to council meetings.
Second, Morrissey said he would focus on fire — saying it is a very real threat facing the community.
Morrissey’s wife, Chris, is a member of the Firewise Committee and he said he has worked with the group and is very interested in implementing education immediately. The program would let people know what they can do now to clean up their properties to make them Firewise.
He said while he is for education, he will not do anything that violates constitutional rights.
He would encourage businesses locally and in the Valley to end charcoal and firewood sales when the forest is closed or there are fire restrictions in place.
And while town staff has cleaned up a lot of town-owned property to meet Firewise standards, the land has not been maintained. Morrissey said he would find funding to maintain these properties.
“And if I am telling you I am going to do something, then I am going to do it.”
Third on his list — broadband redundancy.
After half a dozen outages have caused major problems for residents and businesses in the past years, the town has put no permanent solution in place. Morrissey said the council and mayor have not addressed the issue.
“Lives have been lost and business has been hurt,” he said.
Morrissey said he would work with the local Broadband Consortium and local, state and federal officials to apply pressure on CenturyLink to improve the system and end the outages.
Fourth, Morrissey said he would add an ombudsman position to build a bridge between the business community and the town.
Morrissey said it was wrong for the council to increase the sales tax without running it by the people first. He said the hike is hurting businesses. The tax has brought in an extra $3 million annually, which has gone to fund police and fire pensions, provide employee pay raises, undertake several capital projects and resume normal street maintenance.
Finally, Morrissey said he supports passage of Propositions 401 and 402. He said the propositions would ensure that any major project in the future would have to go to a vote of the people.