Up to five new faces will be on the Queen Creek Town Council this time next year. But according to several current and former council members, that's not likely to mean a radical new direction for the town.
Four council members whose terms are expiring, including the mayor, aren't planning to run for re-election in March. A fifth council member in the middle of his term resigned earlier this week to mount a mayoral campaign.
So if ex-councilman Gail Barney isn't elected as Queen Creek's new mayor, that means first-term councilmen Jeff Brown and Craig Barnes will be the only members of the current council who remain next year.
Former Mayor Mark Schnepf said that while there are some disagreements, he hasn't heard a great deal of dissatisfaction about where the town is heading. There aren't multiple factions fighting against each other like there are in some communities, he said.
"I don't believe Queen Creek has that scenario. This certainly would be an opportunity for a lot of change, a lot of new faces," he said. "I don't think there will be a tidal wave of change."
Councilman Jon Wootten, whose term is expiring, said one of the things to watch to gauge future direction will be previous activities of council candidates.
There are several people around town who have been heavily involved in committees and analyzing town issues even though they've never served on the council, Wootten said.
If most of the candidates have been involved with committees or otherwise frequently give their input, that will lessen the chance of a big change in direction, Wootten said.
"The way in which they make decisions, a lot of it will be based on their familiarity with how the town has progressed to where it is now," Wootten said. "They'll have a good background as to why certain decisions were made. The goal, the tone, the tenor."
Barnes agreed with that assessment, adding that people with experience on committees and the town's Citizen Leadership Training program will have a better idea of the commitment involved.
"If people who are involved in different committees (decide to run), that could be great for the town. We're losing a lot of experience," Barnes said. "I just hope people who are running, if they're serious about running, I hope they realize how much time is involved."
Plus, the new members may not really be new.
"An old council member might decide to come back," Barnes said. "So you never know what's going to happen with that."
Brown said it has been good to have several members who have served a while. Joyce Hildebrandt, for instance, has been in her seat since 1993.
"Certainly we all have our eyes on where we're going, but sometimes to get where we're going, it helps to have the institutional knowledge of where we came from," Brown said.
The advice he had for candidates was to become familiar with the budget and the voter-approved general plan. Brown is not expecting much of a shift in council decisions because the makeup of the town hasn't changed much recently.
"I'm not the person who decides who lands in those empty chairs. The voters of Queen Creek are," Brown said. "And I think the voters are going to be sharp enough to pick the people who best represent their thoughts and ideas."
Barnes could see a lockdown on spending money or more of an emphasis on nonprofit groups, depending on who's elected. But other than that, he's not expecting a major shift, either.
"The whole thing is still run by the people of the town," Barnes said. "If you go in and start doing drastic things, you'll be called out."
Since this is the first week candidates can pick up election packets, the pool of candidates has barely begun to form. Only two candidate packets have been picked up so far, one by Barney, Town Clerk Jennifer Robinson said.
The other was picked up by resident Cynthia Buffington. Buffington said she's not running but couldn't say who the packet is for at this point because she doesn't have a candidate who has decided to run.
While there's always the chance up to four members of the council could lose elections and provide turnover, Robinson and Schnepf said they don't remember there ever being this many new faces guaranteed on the council.
Since 2000, the greatest number of new council members seated after any election has been two, Robinson said. Information prior to 2000 wasn't immediately available Thursday.