Doug Erskin sworn in as Morenci mayor 11.14

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

For the first time since August 1993, Russ Sutherland wasn’t sitting at the head table in Morenci City Hall as a member of city government.

City voters went for a change in the Nov. 6 general election, favoring mayoral challenger Doug Erskin by a wide margin, 263-109. Erskin took over as mayor at Monday night’s meeting.

Only about 25 percent of the electorate turned out to choose a mayor and city council members.

Incumbent council member Leasa Slocum led in the council race with 226 votes. Incumbent Dick Hewitt and newcomer Art Erbskorn tied with 221 votes.

Unsuccessful council candidates were Carl VanDeWalker with 143 votes, Jeff Lantz with 129 and Wes Clark with 97.

“Time for a change” wasn’t a slogan that Erskin came up with, he said following the election, although he did see it on yard signs that some residents created.

Erskin said he worked with Sutherland for several years on the city planning commission and he doesn’t think their views differ that much on a lot of issues.

Maybe voters were just after “new blood,” he said, but he also believes residents are looking for a say in the way the city is run.

“I really think people want to get more involved,” Erskin said. “I think they want to have a part in the changes they want.”

Erskin attended a council meeting in September seeking more enforcement of property maintenance problems in his neighborhood, but he said following the election that portions of the International Property Maintenance Code might be too harsh for a small town.

“They’re really good guidelines, and some that you have to comply with, but there should be some leeway on other issues,” he said.

Erskin said he’ll be looking for ideas rather than demands, and for more friendly ways to create change.

In the past Erskin spoke of achieving better communication between city hall and the town’s citizens and looking for a way to get students to be more involved.

Erskin said his decision to run for mayor wasn’t a frivolous one and he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“I thought about it for a long time and I hope I do a really good job,” he said. “We’ve got a really good council and I hope some positive changes can be made in the next two years. I’m really excited about it.”

SUTHERLAND ERA—Sutherland was first elected to council in August 1993 when the city was recovering from recall elections and frustrations continued over torn-up streets from the sewer separation project.

He was elected to serve as mayor in August 1997 and was at the helm during other challenges such as the closure of Morenci Area Hospital, the creation of an ALS ambulance service and cash shortfalls.

While Sutherland served as mayor, the city moved forward on many projects including the establishment of a wellhead protection plan, refurbishing the Haulette building for manufacturing space, acquiring a building for a new city hall, construction of a new library, devising a sidewalk repair plan, creation of an industrial park, park improvements, Main Street rebuilding project, the Mill Street rebuilding project and creation of the rental inspection plan.

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
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    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
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    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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