A secure, positive future for Payson is why Barbara Underwood is seeking reelection to the town council.
Underwood, 61, has made her home in Payson for 43 years.
After some college, she opened a restaurant in Payson at 19 and has been self-employed since then.
She has 43 years in business management, finance, hospitality, planning, development, budgeting and real estate.
“I’ve been happily married for 45 years to Patrick,” she said. They have two daughters, Becky (Justin), Karen (Rich), seven grandchildren, Alexis (Nick), Alyssa, Marissa, Chance, Ayden, Ashlyn, and Tara.
Besides her work with the town council, Underwood serves the Payson Senior Center, Payson school board and Mogollon Sporting Association.
Asked why she is running, Underwood said, “I have invested more than 43 years into this town as a mother, grandmother, businessperson, and public servant. I want to see Payson secure a positive future and we all have a small part to play in making sure that happens.
“I want to see Payson grow in a responsible, sustainable way. That means thoroughly vetting and investing in sensible projects that will attract more jobs and bring continued enjoyment and enriched quality of life for Payson residents. To me, that means pushing for more airport grant funding and completing the American Gulch project as another step toward making Main Street the heart of Payson again.”
Underwood said she wanted to run because, “During my years here both as a restaurant owner and public servant, I have had so many wonderful conversations with Payson residents that inspired me to continue to fight for this town. There is something special about living in Payson, especially for as long as I have. I care too much about the people that live here to not continue to try to do what is best for this wonderful place we all call home.”
She said she feels she’s the best candidate because she knows Payson. “Living in a place for 43 years, you develop a special connection as you see it change and grow. I truly believe everybody running for town council believes they are doing the right thing for the town, but I’m doing more than that — I’m running to continue to serve a place (and people) that I love. I know the unique challenges our community continues to face and will fight to make sure our future is secure.”
She said of the life experiences that make her a good council member, “I am a businessperson at heart, including running several successful businesses right here in Rim Country. I have experience operating large budgets responsibly, remaining within the margins and always asking the tough questions to ensure taxpayer money is spent responsibly. I also love people, and I truly believe a good councilperson is one that can get out in the community to talk to people, understand the issues at stake, and advocate for the community as a whole.”
Underwood said her weakness is sometimes having so much that she wants to say that it comes out too fast.
“When I get excited talking about an issue, I just need to remember to slow down. However, I believe my ability to connect with people, steadfast integrity, and undying love for this town make me a great candidate to continue to serve on the council.”
She said the following are the top three issues confronting the council: responsible economic development; increased funding for first responders, specifically vehicles and equipment; developing a master plan and budget for roads to address congestion issues and account for future growth.
Asked to assess the current council, Underwood said, “Our current council has come a long way and I truly believe everybody wants to do what is best for the town, but I believe we need to be better about setting a positive example for our community. Our constituents oftentimes follow our lead and our bickering sets a poor precedent. It is time for every council member to rise above name-calling and stonewalling and work together for a better future for our town. That should be something we can all agree on.”
She said the best thing the council has done is worked hard to see that our most valuable asset, our employees, have been fairly compensated with a salary study and placement of staff.
She believes the worst thing about the council, “There is a lack of public decorum at many of our meetings that often derails productive conversations. Also, questionable staffing decisions have eroded town employee trust in the council, which I believe must be restored immediately.”
Underwood said the motto she lives by is something from poet Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”