Carefree divided as Lewis pulls out

Bookmark and Share

CAREFREE – Vice Mayor Les Peterson opened the Feb. 10 council meeting by praising Mayor David Schwan, who resigned last week upon being diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, for his ability to bring people together.

Town Clerk Kandace French provided council with the procedure to elect a mayor to serve out the rest of Schwan’s term, whereas council would take nominations, close nominations, invite public comment and then accept comments from council before voting.

While Councilman Marty Saltzman had been absent from the past few meetings, he appeared telephonically.

melissa priceCouncilman Glenn Miller nominated Councilwoman Melissa Price (r).

Councilman Mike Farrar nominated Les Peterson (below).

During public comment, since there was no Call to the Public agendized, Jim Van Allen advised council there were a number of occasions when he sent an e-mail to, the posted e-mail address for council members, and assumed it was distributed to all members of council.

He said he has since learned that is not the case and the e-mails do not go to anyone on council.

Van Allen asked council to address the issue and make it easier for members of the public to contact council.

Another man spoke to say he hoped council didn’t make the selection of mayor a one-issue candidate.

He said voters already made the choice of who should move up to the post of mayor and it should be the person who received the highest number of votes.

From looking at the Carefree Town Code, it appears the town never updated this portion of the code since changing from a council-appointed mayor to citizens directly electing their mayor.

les petersonPeterson stated he has been on council for about two and a half years and believes he brings a balance to council.

As far as economic development goes, he said the town invested in the Baker study, which should be complete next month.

Peterson said they received bad news that day regarding the ASU/Ed Lewis project.

However, he stated they were back into discussions with Desert Foothills Theater and the Sonoran Arts League.

Miller said, “We’ve had a divided council. We chased Ed Lewis away,” and read a lengthy letter from Lewis about why he was pulling out of the proposed Easy Street project.

He said, “That’s why we need a good mayor like Melissa Price.”

Councilman John Crane said they were fortunate to have two capable people from which to choose but it was a matter of choosing the right person at the right time. 

He said Price has developed strong relationships within the business community and stated, “I believe she is the correct choice.”

Farrar said he agreed with Crane that they need the right person at the right time.

However, he cautioned they were all lay people on council, not experts in economic development.

Farrar said, “To take such a large risk, I see Les Peterson taking the more cautious approach.”

Saltzman said he has not attended as many meetings lately as he would have liked but stated, “This evening should not be a referendum on this issue.”

He also said he was surprised at the timing of the Lewis letter and stated, “I don’t like it.”

Saltzman went on to say he believed Peterson is better qualified to be mayor.

Council deadlocked 3-3 with Crane, Miller and Price voting for Price and the other three voting for Peterson.

Town Attorney Michael Wright said because there was no successful candidate, the vice mayor, per town code, will continue to serve as mayor until a mayor can be elected.

Meanwhile, council decided not to vote on a vice mayor until the vacant seat on council is filled, at which time, according to Wright, they could also revisit voting on a mayor as well.

Saltzman asked council for dignity and class in moving forward.

Peterson agreed it was best not to do anything further that night until they could come back and regroup to vote on a nomination for vice mayor at the March 3 meeting.

Town Administrator Gary Neiss said he would solicit through COINS letters of interest and council could decide how long it will take to interview candidates, depending upon the number of applicants.

Peterson suggested it could take a month.

Neiss stated, in light of the Lewis letter, the special meeting called for Feb. 17 might be cancelled.

John Traynor questioned the procedure for replacing the mayor and said resignation doesn’t fall within the confines of disability and voiced concern about the obvious division on council.

Wright stated the town code addresses vacancies on council for any reason, and said the mayor is a member of council.

readers love sonoran news