Paradise Valley installs council; eyes vacancy appointment

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins, at left, was sworn into office Thursday, Jan. 12 at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Paradise Valley Town Council welcomed its newly elected council members, officially accepted the resignation of a current member and chose its top officials during a meeting held Jan. 12.

Scott Moore, Julie Pace and Mark Stanton were sworn-in for their current terms and Michael Collin was reinstalled as the town’s mayor.

And, thanks to a flip of a coin, Jerry Bien-Willner was chosen to serve as the town’s vice mayor.

Paradise Valley councilmembers Julie Pace, Mark Stanton and Scott Moore being sworn into public office Thursday, Jan. 12. (Special to the Independent/Duncan Miller)

Deciding a split council vote to name the next vice mayor — who is replacing David Sherf — Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert flipped a challenge coin during the town council meeting.

The meeting and appointment ceremony was held at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Aside from ceremonial appointments, town council has officially acknowledged a vacancy on the local governing board.

After a 13-year run volunteering for the Town of Paradise Valley, most notably advocating for the community’s public safety, Councilwoman Maria Syms has turned in her resignation.

Just one month after publicly stating she is ready to tackle a new role as a state representative while remaining on the Paradise Valley Town Council, Ms. Syms had a change of heart.

Citing the decision as a precautionary move, Ms. Syms says in her resignation letter that she is resigning so that the legality question of being on town council and a state representative will not become an issue.

“While there is no settled law on my specific circumstances and the merit are subject to debate, I do not want the question to be a distraction from the important upcoming work of the council or my work as your state representative,” she said in the letter of resignation.

Maria Syms

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to lay out its appointment process for a replacement for the seat left vacant by Rep. Syms at its Jan. 26 meeting, officials say.

Mayor Collins says filling a vacant seat is nothing new for town council.

“During my time with the council, we have filled a vacant seat three times, each time with a different process,” he pointed out noting the process will likely be defined later this month.

“Unfortunately, in my experience political dynamics and individual councilmember personal agendas influenced each process more than anything, whether publicly or covertly. Hopefully this time will be different and I will be asking that all council discussions on filling the vacancy be held in public and not secretively behind closed doors in executive session. I hope the full council will agree.”

Mayor Collins suspects candidate for the vacancy will not be hard to find.

“People come out of the woodwork once they hear that the council will be filling a vacancy. Politicos start making calls and planting flags in social media and with individual councilmembers,” he said of the local political machine.

“Personally I’ve heard from a couple of quality individuals expressing interest. I tell them to stand by to see how the council decides to move forward. I keep hoping to hear Larry Fitzgerald’s or Michael Phelps’s name in the mix but I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath. Recently retired Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek would be another excellent candidate bringing his 19 years of County experience to the table.”

But Mayor Collins says Mr. Sherf, too, could be a good fit if he were to choose to come back to fill the vacancy.

“Having just ended his elected term, my good friend and former Vice Mayor Dave Sherf would certainly be a prime contender,” he said.

“Dave knows our business and could step right back in and hit the ground running. The cool thing about our town is the quality of individuals who live here. I’m sure in the end the council will create the right process and make the right choice for filling this vacancy. Residents will be watching.”

Paradise Valley Town Manager Kevin Burke explains the appointment process has to be defined before it can occur.

“The vacancy process is still completely undefined at this point,” he said in a Jan. 11 statement. “The council makes the decision who they appoint and how they appoint. There is nothing in town code or state statute that defines the process. My understanding is that historically the town has used different processes to fill a council vacancy.”

Many options could emerge, Mr. Burke contends.

“Some occasions have had open applications, other times have had nominations by the sitting members,” he said.

“Right now I have scheduled a work session item at the Jan. 26 meeting to have council decide what process they are interested in conducting. It is also possible that a special meeting might be called to keep this moving. Right now the focus is getting the new members seated.”

Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert, at left, flips a challenge coin to determine who will serve as vice mayor in Paradise Valley while members of council Jerry Bien-Willner and Mark Stanton look on. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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