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Thu, Aug. 22

New faces, no experience

The relationship between "experience" and the ability to lead has played a major role in this year's presidential campaign, especially as the fight for the Democratic nomination drags on into April and beyond.

So it's no surprise, then, that the issue should come up in Kingman where, following the May 20 election, a majority of the City Council will consist of first-term members. It's the biggest political shake-up the city has seen in years, and while many in Kingman have been hungering for that other political buzzword - change - the relative lack of experience of the incoming Council may be cause for concern.

Such is the case with councilman Kerry Deering, who sees a substantial vacuum to fill following the pending departure of Mayor Les Byram and councilmen Dave French, Tom Spear and Tom Carter.

"We have a lot of years of experience there," Deering said. "We're going to have a freshman mayor, all freshman Council members ... That's not what I would call the dream team."

Still in his first term, Deering has already learned much from his time on the Council, but he's also learned of the toll it can take on a person and of the personal investments required to get the job done.

"It's been really tough on me," he said. "I run a busy medical practice. I have two kids, one who lives in California and goes to school, and one who's here and plays sports and stuff."

Deering said he spent five hours on Council-related business last Monday between studying the packet prior to the meeting and the meeting itself.

"It's just a lot, but basically I want to see what happens," he said. "I want to see what happens with the incumbents.

Asked whether or not he planned to run again when his term was up, Deering said he never intended to be a long-term politician, but if things don't go the way he hopes, he wouldn't rule out a second run.

"If I think somebody's going to give our town away, I'd run again," he said. "But I'm hoping this new group steps up, you know."

Councilman Ray Lyons also hopes to see the incoming members take charge of their new roles. But for him, lack of experience isn't the biggest concern.

"Main thing that concerns me is that they come to meetings prepared, that's been a big thing for me the last couple of years," Lyons said. "It's quite a bit of work. They'll find out there's more work than they expected to it."

Lyons said he also expects several of the newcomers may have to abstain from voting on various land and development issues, something Lyons has never had to do in his six years on Council. Candidates Travin Pennington and Craig Schritter are involved in contracting and land development, and Keith Walker, as an electrician, is also tied to the industry.

"If you're a contractor, you know there'll be items on the agenda that can affect your business," Lyons said. "And land owners, a lot of people own land in the city that will be developed or is going to be developed soon and decisions made by the council can affect how that works.

"I think some of the new council members will have to abstain from time to time. That opens the door for tie votes and things like that."

Regarding the incoming lack of experience, Lyons was optimistic that the new council members would learn the job quickly enough, again, so long as they are willing to prepare themselves.

"If you come to a meeting and you're not prepared, you're going to end up talking and talking and talking," he said. "This Council that's in there right now is actually famous for all talk and not much action. That's one thing I hope will change after the new members take office."

Councilwoman Janet Watson said she, too, is less concerned with incoming members' experience, in part because the candidates have all been educating themselves.

"The sitting council and the incoming members have worked quite a bit to get acquainted," she said. "You can learn a lot in just a year or two."

Watson also noted that the new Council will still have access to the many years of experience accumulated by city staff. She said the candidates' clear enthusiasm to use that experience and learn as much as they can has made her eager to see what happens.

"I think they're coming well-equipped ... and it's going to be energizing," Watson said. "I'm very optimistic about our future."

Nicholas Wilbur of the Miner contributed to this report.

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