Council hopefuls bring varied experiences to campaign<BR>

PRESCOTT – Rowle Simmons is running unopposed for a second term as Prescott mayor, but three incumbent council members are facing competition from an equal number of candidates who have filed nominating petitions for seats on the Prescott City Council.

This 2003 election is the first in years in which all of the incumbents have opted to run for another term, said City Clerk Marie Watson, who has worked in that office for almost 30 years.

Simmons said a second two-year term would allow him to finish up some projects that are still in the works in the city, such as the downtown parking garage.

In addition, he said, "there are a lot of new challenges with the economic climate we have out there. And we are still working toward regional cooperation."

Simmons sees his first year in office – which included the Indian Fire, a shooting involving two police officers, the bark beetle infestation, and a number of delays on the downtown parking garage – as good training for another term.

Incumbent Steve Blair, who was born and raised in Prescott, believes that he has obtained good insight into the city's "past, present and hopefully what Prescott wants to be."

Before being elected to the council, he served on the Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission and on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

"We've been successful in getting constituents to agree that we need to pave unpaved alleys and streets," he said. Blair also worked to get a pay assessment plan accomplished for city employees, to complete the Lincoln Street Bridge, and is working with tribal leaders to preserve petroglyphs in a 10-acre park at Prescott Lakes.

"I think I've done a very good job for four years," he said, "but we'll leave that up to the voters."

Incumbent Lee Nidess also believes that the current council members "accomplished quite a bit in the past four years." He would like to continue work on some of the projects he has been involved with since their inception.

Nidess said he believes in preserving open space and revitalizing the downtown area.

Incumbent Robert Behnke agrees with Nidess about revitalizing the downtown area of Prescott.

"It has to be saved," he said.

He also believes that council members have to be capable of understanding large, complex problems, and he is proud that he was instrumental in bringing the world's largest solar plant to Prescott and that he contributed to the city's general plan.

Mary Ann Suttles, who served on the Prescott City Council from 1991 through 1995, is one of the three non-incumbents who are seeking seats on the council.

A 28-year Prescott resident, Suttles said she is active on numerous community boards, including the Prescott Frontier Rodeo board, Habitat for Humanity, Prescott Fine Arts, and the Yavapai County Fair board. She also serves as president of the Republican Women's Club.

She decided to run again "because I realized what was being spent and done and I'm not happy with it."

"We must get back in line a little bit and get back to basics – spending taxpayer money on water, sewer, streets and police and fire. I'm fairly conservative, and see that we should rein in some of the spending."

Candidate Robert Luzius, a 16-year Prescott area resident, attended Prescott High School and is a retired Ohio professional fire fighter. He also owned a small business in Maryland for 17 years. He is a Navy veteran of the Korean Conflict.

"I remember the city the way it was years ago," he said. "Some changes I like and some I don't like."

He would like to see a "citizen friendly" council and staff, better public transportation, building code compliance enforcement, an assured water supply, continued preservation of the downtown area, and concentrated efforts to bring clean, higher paying industry to the city.

He is active in several community service organizations, including the Fire Board of Appeals, Board of Adjustment, Badger "P" Mountain Preservation Committee and a Prescott High School Alumni golf tournament that provides scholarship money to students.

Jim Lamerson, who has lived in the Prescott area since 1979, has owned a small business in downtown Prescott since 1992.

"Prescott is my home town. I've never known any other," said Lamerson, whose father was a career Air Force officer.

Lamerson is a Rotary Club member and served on the Downtown Commission, Downtown Master Plan Committee and the Chamber of Commerce Downtown Action Committee. He also was active on the city's General Plan Rewrite Committee and is part of the Yavapai Housing Needs Coalition.

"Density is not always bad," he said. He believes that removing certain government restrictions would help reduce the cost of housing and "let the marketplace address the issue."

Lamerson said he is a fiscal conservative who believes that the basic services taxpayers pay for "come first, second and third."

He also is opposed to the infringement of rights in the private business sector. He believes that using the eminent domain procedure "is not a good tool to take away property rights of an individual simply because he wants more money than the public is willing to pay for land.

"Here I am," he said. "I've been here for 24 years, own a business and I'm volunteering to draft city policy and help decide how we spend people's hard-earned tax dollars."

Council members serve four-year terms and earn $500 monthly from the city. The mayor's post pays $750 each month.

Prescott residents have until Aug. 7 to register to vote in the Sept. 9 primary election. For voter registration information, visit the Yavapai County Elections Office at 1015 Fair St. or call 771-3250.

Contact the reporter at dgoss@prescottaz.com