JEROME - When the final votes cast in Tuesday's primary election were counted, councilwoman Nikki Check not only won re-election to the council but also won election as the town's mayor. In Jerome, the councilperson receiving the most votes is elected by the new council to serve for next two years as mayor.
Check was the top vote getter in the March 13 primary with 88 votes. Councilman Lew Currier came in second with 81 votes. William Phinney received 77 votes, and Anne Bassett and Randall Hunt each received 70 votes.
Mayor Jay Kinsella did not run for re-election.
Thursday afternoon Check spoke by phone with the Verde Independent.
"OK, I can do this," she said in response to a question about whether she would accept being mayor. "The most important thing for me is I have a great team behind me."
She had just completed several days of hiking in the Grand Canyon, and said she found out by phone that she had received enough votes to be mayor.
"I was really reluctant to think about it," she said. "It was not on my agenda. But I am honored."
She said the first thing she did was talk with Town Manager Candace Gallagher. Check said that Gallagher told her she can do this, that she can handle being mayor.
Friday, former mayor and town clerk Al Palmieri said that giving the position of mayor to the top council vote getter is more than just a tradition. "It is actually in the town code," he said.
"As far back as I can remember, it's been that way," Palmieri said.
"I think the town made a good choice," he said.
Palmieri said that he knows of only one time when the top vote getter on the council declined to accept the position of mayor. That was former mayor Jane Moore when she was on the council. Palmieri said she received one or two votes more than the sitting mayor. When the sitting mayor asked Moore to allow him to remain as mayor, she agreed.
Check said on Thursday that her agenda is to listen to people to learn what they want for the town.
"I'm a clean slate," she said. "As far as I can tell, infrastructure, water and sewer, is always at the top of the list," Check said. She said she will work to keep infrastructure at the top of the town's priority list.
When asked if she has any other issues that she'd like to see given attention, Check said she would consider looking at the multi-family housing issue in town.
"It's a zoning issue," she said.
She said she does have a specific building in mind. "The Hotel Jerome is the one that is sitting in the back of everybody's mind," she said. She admitted there are some obstacles to using that building for housing. But she said that maybe it is time to start chipping away at those obstacles.
Check first came on the council along with Bill Phinney in October after the council appointed them to replace Vice Mayor Christine Barag and councilwoman Lisa Rappaport after their resignations on Oct. 6 and 7.
At the time, Mayor Jay Kinsella said that after the two seats became available, the remaining council members felt it was a good time to bring "new blood" onto the council. He said that Check was known and respected.
Check had been a familiar face around Jerome and town hall because she has been a reliable source of information on issues having to do with agriculture zoning. She also served on a stakeholder committee.
She is a vineyard and orchard consultant, and she works in that capacity for Yavapai College.
The election of mayor will take place during the new council's first meeting of the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.